Last year, the Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City set itself on fire for the Utah AIDS Foundation and World AIDS Day—if not literally, then the fire spinners and wall-to-wall projections of flames at its third annual Red Party (which raises money for UAF’s programs and services) were close enough.
This year, however, the Kimpton boutique hotel plans on outdoing itself yet again with its fourth bash, titled “Passion Party.” Why such a sexy theme?
“We want to show the community how passionate we are about the Utah AIDS Foundation, and what they do, and raising money for them,” said Shawn Jackson, Monaco’s entertainment guru (yes, his real title).
To show the hotel’s passion, and to encourage partiers to also become passionate about helping UAF with its life-saving work, this year’s party will feature a number of new and exciting things all centered around the sensual world, including: Go-Go dancers, living statues (reminiscent of Galatea, the statue brought to life by mythological Greek artist Pygmalion) and aphrodisiac foods created by on-site restaurant Bambara. There will also be an oxygen bar, where guests can sample concentrated oxygen in a variety of different aromas.
What does oxygen have to do with passion?
“Oxygen is actually an aphrodisiac,” Jackson explained. “It opens up the mind.”
This year’s party is also targeted towards opening the minds of a demographic that HIV/AIDS is currently ravaging: young people, specifically ages 18-25, who are too young to remember the devastation the disease wrought in the 1980s.
“The average age is dropping for a lot of factors, but I think there’s a sense that HIV is not an issue anymore,” said Stan Penfold, executive director of the Utah AIDS Foundation. “[They think] it’s not a problem, not a lot of people have it, there might be a cure. It’s the same misconception because [HIV/AIDS] is not talked about very much any more.”
And UAF is seeing the costs of these misconceptions first hand. So far this year, said Tyler Fisher, the organization’s program director, 82 new HIV diagnoses have been reported in Utah—significantly more than the state saw in 2007.
“What we can say is that we are seeing a 22 percent increase,” said Fisher. Worse, the reactivity rate—that is, the number of positive HIV diagnoses out of all tests given at the organization—is also higher than the state’s rate. Last year, Fisher said the reactivity rate at UAF was .86 percent—close to the state’s average of .73 percent.
“At the same time this year we’re over one percent,” he said. Worse still, men who have sex with men have accounted for all the positive tests at UAF this year, with cases hitting the age groups of 24 and under and 30-39 particularly hard.
“It’s great they’re coming in and accessing the testing, but maybe they’re not catching the messages that are put out there,” Fisher said.
So, another of UAF’s goals is to put out new messages about prevention, education and rapid testing. Fisher added that the foundation will unveil a teaser of its new, edgier campaign at the party. UAF has been hinting at such a campaign since January, when the organization announced it had turned down advertising money from the Utah Department of Health, which came with restrictions on the content of ads the foundation could create. The new ads, said Fisher, will allow UAF to “delve into some more sensitive issues and be more provocative.”
For the last four years, the Red Party has also been one of the most provocative celebrations in town. After getting an “overwhelmingly positive” response last year, the celebration will be moved upstairs to the Paris Ballroom—which will be decorated entirely in red, the color symbolizing AIDS awareness. Guests are asked to dress entirely in red, and prizes will be given to the best dressed. Prize drawings and a silent auction will also be held throughout the night.
Last year, the hotel raised $21,000 for the Utah AIDS Foundation, more than almost any other region with a Kimpton hotel. All regions with Kimpton properties sponsor a similar fundraiser each year during the month of December. This year, Jackson said the hotel would like to raise at least $25,000. And while he is “a bit nervous” that the tanking economy will pose a challenge to this goal, he said he’s confident the party’s core of supporters will make this year’s event the most successful yet.
“I really think everyone is gonna want to get out of their houses and have a good time,” he said.
Due to the party’s popularity, guests must RSVP. They can do so by calling Nathan Measom at (801) 487-2323 or emailing [email protected] The suggested donation is $25 at the door.
Throughout the month of December, Bambara will also offer a red plate special, with proceeds going to the Utah AIDS Foundation. Additionally, any reservation booked at Hotel Monaco (under the code RRC for Red Ribbon Campaign) will save guests 10 percent on their hotel stay, and donate $10 to UAF.