If World AIDS Day seeks to both celebrate life and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, then the Telluride AIDS Benefit’s 2019 World AIDS Day program appears to balance the two perfectly.
“In Telluride, World AIDS Day is an opportunity not just to remember those who have lost their lives to the disease and celebrate those that are living full lives today with HIV, but also to raise awareness about the changing conversation about HIV and AIDS,” TAB Executive Director Jessica Galbo said. “There is lots to learn and raising awareness and education is paramount for TAB, so we can empower Telluride community members to make healthy choices. World AIDS Day gets us all talking about HIV and AIDS, thus reducing stigma and increasing awareness, oh, and having fun.”
While World AIDS Day takes place each year on Dec. 1, TAB will mark WAD 2019 on Saturday, Nov. 30 at the Liberty. First, there will be some awareness-raising courtesy of Twenty(by)Telluride, HIV Edition, followed by a dance party with DJ Wombat that will stretch into the small hours of Dec. 1 and serve to ring in World AIDS Day itself.
Doors open at 7 p.m. and Twenty(by)Telluride begins at around 8 p.m., with the dancing following at 9. There is a cover charge of $10.
Raising awareness continues to be important, Galbo emphasized, adding, “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in 2017 were among young people aged 13-24. This is one of the fastest rates of increase and in a population that is not getting nearly as much education as in previous years. HIV does not have a known cure, but it is preventable. Unfortunately, it is hand in hand with STDs, which in 2018 had the highest rates in the United States ever.”
Twenty(by)Telluride, HIV Edition is TAB’s iteration of the popular, compelling and fast-paced format in which presenters tell the tales that connect them to TAB and/or HIV and AIDS while delivering a slideshow of 20 photos, each shown for precisely 20 seconds.
This year’s lineup includes Katy Parnello, the 2020 artistic director and director/choreographer of a number of TAB shows; TAB OG and volunteer Dean Rolley; the nonprofit’s board president, Matt Hintermeister; and TAB model Madalynne Dougall.
The 2020 Gala Fashion Show will be a third time strutting the TAB catwalk for Dougall, who arrived in Telluride from Australia via Texas.
“I found Telluride on a seasonal work website when I was 22 and living in Austin,” Dougall recalled. “I wanted to live in a mountain town and learn how to snowboard. Back then I had no idea what either of those things even meant. I remember the day after I arrived it snowed a foot. It was my first time seeing snow. I came with one backpack with the intention of leaving at the end of that winter.”
Dougall ended up staying put in Telluride, and subsequently found her way to TAB.
“I tried out for a show only with the intention of getting more involved with the community and having a bit of fun,” she said. “After getting to know the organization and reading about Robert Presley, my heart burst with excitement to be part of something that was so much bigger than I first thought.”
Her first turn as a TAB model turned out to be a memorable one as she modeled Kathleen Morgan’s condom outfit.
“I was looking forward to performing for the first time in a long time,” Dougall explained. “Little did I know I was about to wear a spandex bat suit, winged with 750 condoms.”
That 2018 fashion show turned out to be just the first step for Dougall.
“I was a part of the show again the next year and that experience deepened my love and admiration for the organization and the people involved. I don’t make a lot of money, so my time, energy and passion are how I can contribute. And that in itself is a privilege.”
She added of her regard for TAB and its work: “I love to dance and perform; it’s very fulfilling for me. However, what is most fulfilling is knowing that our tedious rehearsals and long nights are for more than just putting on a great show. It’s a lot of work, but it’s not much compared to what the organization creates and gives to the people who need it the most. I knew nothing of HIV and AIDS before getting involved and it made me feel like I had a purpose.”
Now, Dougall will up her involvement in TAB by presenting at this year’s Twenty(by)Telluride, HIV Edition.
“I am going to share my story in the most concise and precise way,” she said. “I grew up in rural Australia and never thought I’d be living in Colorado, so it will really just be about how I have made it to where I’m at right now.”
Dougall has attended past Twenty(by)Telluride, HIV Edition events and advised those attending to bring tissues.
“It’s an inspiring event that you possibly want to have tissues for,” she said. “I love listening to people’s stories. I think it’s their vulnerability that strikes me the most. It’s something I highly admire and try to embody for myself. I think that people can expect to feel moved and maybe even relate to a lot of the stories. I think the event helps people feel not so alone [and] reminds us that we’re all in this together and that we need take care of each other. With the line-up this year, I think they can expect to learn a lot about the people behind the scenes of the foundation and the show itself.”
From her years of involvement with TAB, does Dougall have any advice?
“Get tested, get involved,” she said. “Educate yourselves and if you can, contribute. Awareness is so powerful and can fuel change. I have met some of the most compassionate, hard-working and weird people through TAB and it has enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined.”