World AIDS Day - How Eurovision has brought attention to the pandemic
Today, 1 December, marks World AIDS Day. It’s an international day dedicated to raising awareness across the world about the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. It is a day for people to show their support those people living with HIV and to commemorate the people who have died of AIDS related conditions or other conditions associated with HIV.
The Eurovision Song Contest, as a global platform, has been used in the past as a way to bring unprecedented worldwide attention to the cause. Previous contestants have been ambassadors, artists have come forward confirming themselves to be HIV-positive, and the Eurovision stage itself has been used to bring the topic to the attention of the world.
Today, we recognise World AIDS Day by looking at how the Contest and artists have brought global attention to the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic.
'Get a Life - Get Alive'
In 2007, Austria returned to the Eurovision Song Contest following a one- year absence with their broadcaster ORF making an internal selection of Eric Papilaya with ‘Get a Life - Get Alive’.
‘Get a Life - Get Alive’ was not only going to compete at Eurovision that year, it was also selected to be the official song of 'Life Ball 2007', an annual event held in Vienna to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS.
On the stage in Helsinki, Eric started his performance from within a massive red ribbon placed on the stage. The use of such a red ribbon has often been used to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS.
The Life Ball, as mentioned above, is an annual charity event held in Vienna and organised by the nonprofit organisation AIDS LIFE.
Often coinciding its timing with the Eurovision Song Contest, Austrian broadcaster ORF has used this to their advantage, allowing for coverage of both events by having their voting spokesperson read the Austrian votes from the Life Ball on occasion helping raise awareness of HIV and AIDS.
In 2003, singer Elton John spoke to the Eurovision presenters from the Life Ball in Vienna, one of many special guests to appear on that year’s Contest via satellite.
The Life Ball has been attended by many Eurovision artists over the years, including Ireland’s Jedward, Israel’s Dana International, and a range of Austrian Eurovision artists including ZOE, Nathan Trent, and 2014 winner Conchita Wurst.
One of the most iconic Eurovision winners of recent years, Conchita Wurst, came forward in 2018 stating that they had been living with HIV for several years. Thomas Neuwirth (Conchita) wrote on an Instagram post that he had felt compelled to come forward with this information due to threats from a former boyfriend that they would publicly reveal his status.
Swedish singer Andreas Lundstedt of the hit group Alcazar, who has attempted to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest by participating in national final Melodifestivalen multiple times, has previously come forward confirming he is HIV positive. He said he came forward to break down the barriers and prejudices, and to show that people can continue with their lives.
Israeli singer Ofra Haza, who represented the country at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1983 with the song 'Hi', unfortunately passed away in 2000 due to AIDS-related pneumonia.
Louis Potgieter, who was the frontman and main dancer for the German act Dschinghis Khan, who took part in Eurovision back in 1979 with the self-titled song, also died of AIDS back in 1994. When the group reunited in 2005, he was replaced by Stefan Track.
Eurovision allies and ambassadors
Ani Lorak, who represented Ukraine at Eurovision in 2008, is easily one of the country’s most well-known HIV and AIDS ambassadors. She spoke to the eurovision.tv website in the lead-up to the 2008 contest about her role as an ambassador.
Previously mentioned artist Eric Papilaya has worked closely with Life Ball and AIDS LIFE in order to raise awareness, using the Eurovision stage itself as a way to promote the cause.
And 'Eurovision - Australia Decides' artist Courtney Act shared a video on Twitter earlier today discussing the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS as an ally to people living with HIV.
By using the Eurovision stage as the global platform, artists, broadcasters, and nations can continue to raise awareness for ongoing issues such as the AIDS and HIV pandemic into the future, bringing these causes to the attention of hundreds of millions of viewers.
You can read more information about World Aids Day, and find out how to show your support or find events near you by visiting worldaidsday.org.au.