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Jeff Trujillo on Red Ball, fashion and why World AIDS Day is important

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Jeff Trujillo has been with the Colorado Aids project for almost six years. He started as the event coordinator for AIDS Walk Colorado, and when he took over the reins of other failing fundraising programs he decided that it was time to start fresh. The result was the Red Ball, coming up on Sunday, December 1. Trujillo took a few minutes away from working on seating arrangements for the upcoming bash to talk to Westword about fundraising, fashion and the ongoing fight against AIDS.

See also: The Red Ball combines funds and fashion for AIDS awareness

Westword: Jeff, talk to us about World AIDS Day and its relationship to Red Ball.

Jeff Trujillo: World AIDS Day started in the late 1980s, early '90s, and it is commemorated every year on December 1. The purpose was to bring attention to the AIDS epidemic. In Colorado we would hold rallies at the Capitol: It would be members of our community showing up. In 2009 I created Red Ball to bring awareness to the day. We always choose the weekend date closest to December 1 -- and this year, the fifth anniversary of Red Ball and World AIDS Day are on the same day. Why is there still a need to bring awareness to AIDS?

The importance of bringing awareness is bigger than World AIDS Day. In the 1980s, there was a lack of AIDS awareness and fear affecting and taking so many lives. Now it is no longer talked about it in the media, nor a fear of it. With prevention and medication helping longevity, people can have healthier lives and live another forty years -- and there is a perception that AIDS is gone from our world. That is why we need to draw attention to it, because it is still here and affecting people, neighbors, brothers and sisters.

This attitude is occurring with young people especially: young, gay, bisexual men, they think if they get it all they have to do is take a pill and they will be fine. This is also true among women of color, which often leads back to culture and how homosexual and gay relations are viewed. There is still a negative stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS; people feel uncomfortable talking about it.

We understand Red Ball is one of your largest fundraisers. Where does the money go?

All the money raised -- tickets, merchandise -- all of it goes into a general fund. Our food bank serves over 150,000 meals annually. We receive a grant for staffing and infrastructure but not for food. So the money raised will go to buy food. Every year the food bank and prevention are underfunded. Last year we raised $31,450; this year we are on track to exceed that. As of today, we are $2,500 ahead of pre-sales from last year; we are sold out of VIP tables. Tickets at the door are still available.

What do we have to look forward to on Sunday?

Our most amazing event ever. We will have 20 designers, 18 segments, 16 salons and 125 models for the fashion and hair show. We have models who walk once because of the hair design; it's too much to have them walk down the runway and try to run back to change clothes. We have 50 silent auction packages: hotel stays, salons gift baskets and original pieces from designers. We will have a small live auction with five incredible packages: an original dress, seventh row Cher tickets, a custom piece from designer EKiZ, and a Paul McCartney-autographed guitar. We will also auction off a "Red Ball Next Top Model," which includes a makeover, photo shoot and model training, provided by model coach and choreographer Justice Kwesi Kwarteng, director of Colorado Fashion Week, all documented by Crave magazine, with a spot in next year's runway show.

Red Ball starts at 7 p.m. Sunday, December 1, at EXDO Event Center, 1399 35th Street. Tickets are $50 general admission and $75 for runway/VIP (doors open at 6 p.m. for VIP); for tickets, go to Redballdenver.org.

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