Celebrities mark AIDS fight with Austria's Life Ball

VIENNA Sat May 19, 2012 10:22pm IST

Former U. S. President Bill Clinton (C), Swiss actor and Academy award winner Maximilian Schell (L) and German actress Sunny Melles perform on stage during the Red Ribbon Celebration Concert ahead of the 20th Life Ball at Vienna's international airport May 18, 2012. The Life Ball is Europe's largest annual AIDS charity event and takes place in Vienna's city hall May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Former U. S. President Bill Clinton (C), Swiss actor and Academy award winner Maximilian Schell (L) and German actress Sunny Melles perform on stage during the Red Ribbon Celebration Concert ahead of the 20th Life Ball at Vienna's international airport May 18, 2012. The Life Ball is Europe's largest annual AIDS charity event and takes place in Vienna's city hall May 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna geared up on Saturday for the Life Ball, Europe's biggest charity event to support victims of HIV/AIDS that sees celebrities throng to the Austrian capital each year to highlight the fight against the immune system disease.

The Life Ball, celebrated at Vienna's gothic city hall, is marking its 20th anniversary this year under the motto "Fight the Flames of Ignorance".

Actress Milla Jovovich, representing the American Foundation for AIDS Research, appealed for donations to fund comprehensive medical treatment for victims in places like eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.

"It is so simple. We need medicine for everyone affected," the Austria Press Agency quoted her as saying.

Life Ball organiser Gery Keszler, citing the social stigma that often still surrounds the disease, said: "AIDS touches not just the body, but the soul as well."

A charter jet arrived from New York on Friday carrying celebrities for the event including actor Antonio Banderas, singers Randy Crawford, Cheyenne Jackson and Jon Secada, model Kiera Chaplin, and actors Lance Bass, Kim Porter, Quincy Brown and Brigitte Nielsen.

The Life Ball's live entertainment, fine food and fashion shows are organised by the non-profit AIDS LIFE group and made a profit of 2 million euros last year to help fund AIDS treatment, research and prevention efforts.

Seats at the gala event cost 2,500 euros each and ten-seat tables go for 20,000 euros.

A charity concert featuring opera stars, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, soul singers Crawford and Al Jarreau, and readings by actors Banderas and Maximilian Schell was held on Friday night ahead of the main ball on Saturday.

Proceeds from the concert went to the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton was in Vienna to thank the crowd for its support.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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