This Thursday in Los Angeles, the Black AIDS Institute will hold its sixth annual Heroes in the Struggle gala reception at the Directors Guild of America.

The theme of this year’s gala is “That’s what friends are still for” and will feature a special tribute to the legendary Dionne Warwick and Friends in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Grammy Award winning song “That’s what friends are for”, written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager and performed by Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Sir Elton John.   Profits from the sale of the song raised over $2.5 million to fight AIDS and become the emblematic battle song for AIDS activism of the 80s.

Singer Cheryl Lynn, famous for her “Got to Be Real,” will be the featured artist for the 6th Annual Heroes In The Struggle.

Among the 2006 Heroes in the Struggle are filmmaker and Noah’s Arc creator, Patrik-Ian Polk and celebrity photographer, Duane Cramer.

Polk, the creator of LOGO’s hit series Noah’s Arc— The series is based upon the lives, loves, trials, and tribulations of four Black gay men in Los Angeles –began his career as a producer’s assistant at Amblin Entertainment, then a development executive at MTV Films.  In addition to his TV series, Polk directed the film Punks, in 2000 which premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and was later released by Urbanworld Films.

Now in its second season, Noah’s Arc has quickly become one of the most talked about comedy series of the year.  Having debuted in October of 2005 to an enthusiastic audience, the series is created by and executive produced by Polk and his Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions.

Cramer has been compared to photography masters – Gordon Parks and Herb Ritts. His work has appeared in international publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Oggi (Italy), Blue (Australia), Manner Aktuell (Germany), The Advocate, and Pink Magazine.

Of the estimated 1.2 million Americans living with AIDS today, nearly half of them are Black. Over 30 percent of the accumulated AIDS deaths in the US are Black. And 53 percent of the new HIV/AIDS cases in the US are among Black Americans.

“AIDS in America today, is a Black disease!” says Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute. “30 million people have died, most of them Black. The remarkable work of artists like Duane and Patrik challenges people and make them take notice of the world around them. We are humbled to honor and pay tribute to both these men. I hope the community comes out in droves to support them.”

The Black AIDS Institute, founded in 1999, is the only HIV/AIDS think tank in the United States focused exclusively on Black people. The Institute’s mission is to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV. The Institute offers training and capacity building, disseminates information, and provides advocacy and mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.

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