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22 Mar 2005

concerned gay singaporeans organise HIV charity concert

A group of members from local gay Christian support group, Safehaven are organising "affect05 - Saving Lives, Transforming Mindsets," a charity concert to raise funds for AfA and pass on the message of HIV awareness.

affect05 was planned initially in 2004, as a concert to encourage responsible sex to Singaporeans in general. Recently, Dr Balaji Sadasivan's indicated a critical need for prevention programs tailored to specific populations and called for gay people to step forward as safer sex champions for the gay community. Responding to Dr Balaji's urgent call, the organisers have decided to take a bold step to come out publicly as gay Singaporeans committed to responsible sexual lives. They will now use the concert as a platform to pass on the zero tolerance message to the gay community. The concert is open to anyone who is 18 years or older.

"affect05 - Saving Lives, Transforming Mindsets" is a concert that will be held at the Jubilee Hall on April 3, 2005, aimed at promoting the message of affirming life and practicing zero tolerance for unsafe sex amongst MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) in general and the gay community in particular while raising funds for Action for Aids (AfA).

Despite the buzz in the organising committee for the last few months, the planning of this concert was kept low-key for fear of receiving too much attention. However when organiser Gary Chan and his organising committee read Dr Balaji's call in the newspapers for champions in the gay community to step forward and stand up for zero tolerance of unsafe sex practices last week, they felt it was time to come out and be counted in the fight against AIDS in the gay community.

"Dr Balaji's call was a significant boost to our courage and willingness to be counted in a critical effort for our community and nation. There is always a risk in coming out, but we are willing to trust the Government's call for zero tolerance advocates in the community and take this step forward," said Jean Chong, one of the women members of the organising committee.

The concert, which is still currently awaiting the licensing approval from the authorities, will feature Jason and deMarco, a pop duo from the United States who actively support HIV prevention work in their lives and work. The couple met in 2000 when each moved to Los Angeles to pursue their musical aspirations. They were introduced by a mutual friend at a Hollywood restaurant, and it was literally love at first sight. Recalling their encounter, Jason said, "We connected on a spiritual plane that was much deeper than just physical attraction."

Four years on, the duo takes their music of positive affirmation to whoever will listen to them. Their partnership and music, which blends inspirational and pop genres, have led them to conclude three singing tours and four albums including, The Spirit of Christmas and Spirit Pop. A recent highlight for the duo was to be included in the Love Rocks album alongside such stars as Simply Red, Dolly Parton, Melissa Etheridge, The Dixie Chicks, Christina Aguilera, Yoko Ono and Cyndi Lauper.

Jason and deMarco actively champion HIV prevention work and are committed to spread their message of positive, uplifting lives to gay and lesbian audiences and their straight loved ones. The duo has had many precious experiences since coming together. But life wasn't always great for either of them.

In the 1990s, Jason who felt drawn to music even as a child in Baltimore, toured with Christian singing groups Truth and then Sound. His dream of becoming a singer came crashing down in 1998 when Jason came out as gay and was forced to leave Sound.

Recounting the painful experience Jason recalls: "After being with the Sound for about a year, we were about to be signed and we were working on a new album, I really was at a point where I was exhausted of living two lives at that point. I really felt like I needed somebody to come out to, and in my mind, who better than these four guys (from Sound) that I had been traveling with for almost a year who were like brothers? And that's really where my journey began, because I came out to the group and was immediately invited to get out of the group. And the guys looked at me, and in that moment, they looked at me as a completely different person. I realised that this wasn't just happening to me, but this was happening to so many other people around this country and this world."
deMarco's experience was similar, "Until Jason and I found each other, we had both thought that living a gay life meant living underground and doing drugs and alcohol and having random sex. Then we started to meet professionals who had been together for 30 years and we realised that... wow, it is possible. If they can do it, we can do it. We hear the stories about how people have had to live through rough times, condemnation and disowned by their families but they've stayed together. We really feel a huge responsibility and an honor that we can be a light. Even if we touch one life or save one life, it's worth it."

The concert, which is still currently awaiting the licensing approval from the authorities, will feature Jason and deMarco (right), a pop duo from the United States who actively support HIV prevention work in their lives and work.
"We want to be an example to gays and lesbians that it is possible to be gay, out, and have a career. It's possible to be spiritual. It's possible to love yourself and be in a relationship and function within society. People come up to us after our concerts filled with hope, and that's what we hope to share."

Echoing the couple, Alphonsus Lee, another member of the affect05 committee said: "Gay people in Singapore are regularly portrayed as obsessed with mass parties and rampant sex. But constantly being told that all you are a sex-crazed yuppie with lots of pink dollars out to destroy families pulls you down after awhile. You begin to doubt your true value as a person. Eventually you wonder, 'Why bother with responsible sex or responsible anything for that matter?' People will only protect themselves if they value themselves."

Gary Chan added, "The fact is we don't have sufficient good public role models for the gay community in Singapore. Through affect05, we want to say to ourselves and everyone that you can be gay and happy, truly look forward to life and contribute to society. We firmly believe that if people feel good about themselves, they will care and protect themselves and practice responsible sex. You won't have to keep cajoling them."

"Feeling good isn't just about attending great parties, the latest protein shake or how many people you bed. It's about something deep inside that tells you that you are loved, accepted and complete as a gay person. It's as simple as that. Jason and deMarco have a fantastic upbeat approach to life in their songs and they actively support HIV prevention work. What better way to proclaim the need for responsible relationships and sexual behavior amongst the gay community?"

All proceeds raised from the concert will be donated to AfA's work to combat HIV in Singapore - not just amongst the gay community but other MSM, Women who have Sex with Women (WSW) and heterosexuals as well. Gary and his team are hoping that the one night concert will raise at least S$16,000 for AfA.

The cost of the concert has been fully sponsored by some members of SafeHaven. Realising that Affect 05 is a fundraising concert to battle HIV, Jason and deMarco have also turned down any fees and will only receive token honorariums for their performance in Singapore. They will be performing alongside accomplished local talents like Selena Tan of Dim Sum Dollies fame who recently got married, Hossan Leong, the famed Singapore boy and Irene Ang who is well known as Mrs Phua Chu Kang. These performers have also graciously agreed to perform pro bono for the concert.

Concert Details
Date: April 3, 2005, at 8pm sharp
Venue: Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel
Ticket Price: $38 & $48, subject to a $2 handling fee per ticket
You can get tickets for this concert online at the concert website - www.affect05.org (click on link below.)

Note: The concert is open to all regardless of sexual orientation. However the organisers have restricted admission to persons who are at least 18 years old. While we believe Jason and deMarco's message is life affirming for all peoples - young and old, straight and gay - the organisers wish to be sensitive to the more cautious segments of society, particularly parents who may not want their children attending this concert.








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