PARIS — On World AIDS Day, thoughts inevitably turn toward victims of the disease, but it was a joyous crowd that gathered at Jean Paul Gaultier’s headquarters in Paris on Monday night to (loudly) cheer the survivors.
Two of them — artist Aurèle and vocal coach Richard Cross — took to the stage to testify with candor and humor about an experimental protocol for treating the virus that has helped them beat the odds, despite having been infected at the start of the epidemic three decades ago.
They were joined by Dr. Jacques Leibowitch, who developed ICCARRE (an acronym standing for Intermittent, in Canny short Cycles, Anti-Retrovirals may Retain Efficiency) — a mode of anti HIV-AIDS drug prescriptions that allows HIV carrier patients to reduce their intake of anti-HIV cocktails and limit side-effects.
Gaultier, who lost his partner Francis Menuge to AIDS in 1990, said the testimonies were inspiring. “It’s a great lesson, a beautiful evening and a very moving experience, because you can see they are full of life and they have their individual ways of expressing it,” he said. “Life goes on, life is there and life is perfect.”
As a bonus, Spanish dancer Blanca Li and Paris Opera prima ballerina Marie-Agnès Gillot performed a mesmerizing duet to a soundtrack by John Cage, marking the first time they have shared the stage.
For Amber Valletta, who came with makeup artist Stéphane Marais, it was a win-win. “I’m a huge supporter of finding treatments that are available to everyone and accessible, and finding a cure for AIDS, and then also, I love dance and I’ve worked with Blanca Li,” she said.
Fanny Ardant, Haider Ackermann, Rabih Kayrouz, Martine Sitbon, Alexis Mabille, Farida Khelfa, Betony Vernon, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Suzanne Von Aichinger, Ali Mahdavi, Adeline André, Jean-Claude Jitrois and Lola Mercier also turned out to support Leibowitch, who is battling to get official backing for his method.
Ardant was vocal in her dislike for authority, describing the pharmaceutical industry as a “mafia” and criticizing lobbies and pressure groups. “I am always on the side of creators, those that have ideas, not at all in favor of the powers of money, finance and the law,” the French actress explained.
She was flanked by photographer Dominique Issermann, who captured Li and Gillot’s first rehearsal in atmospheric black-and-white shots. “I was on the verge of tears, frankly, it was so beautiful. They were already in tune like twin sisters,” she recalled.