Brazilian fashion consultant and socialite Donata Meirelles is known for her contributions to the fashion industry, specifically recognized as the former style director of Vogue Brazil. However, many are unaware that she is also a longtime supporter and advocate of AIDS research and education. Not only does Meirelles attend annual events to support the cause, but she also continuously engages her online followers to support the fight against HIV and AIDS. Wielding over 463,000 followers, Meirelles has a broad audience that is helping AIDS research gain recognition and funding.
She recently reacted to a headline by the New York Times (@nytimes) which read: “An HIV patient is said to have been cured for just the second time. The success may guide scientists to a new strategy for ending AIDS.” Meirelles is just as excited as the rest of the AIDS research community, since she has been involved in fundraising efforts for many years. She stated: “I am very happy to read the news about the second AIDS cure case. Eight years ago, I was introduced to amfAR by a friend. I was very moved by the cause and by the relentless pursuit of the cure of AIDS. Since then, my family and I have been actively involved in the cause in many ways. I’m really glad we’re on the right track.”*
Formerly known as the American Foundation for AIDS Research, amfAR is an international nonprofit organization committed to supporting AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of AIDS-related public policy around the world. The organization traces its heritage back to April 1983 when Dr. Mathilde Krim founded the AIDS Medical Foundation (AMF), which sought to lessen the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS diagnoses at the time and increase funding for the cause.
AmfAR was formed as the result of a merger between AMF and the California-based National AIDS Research Foundation. In September 1985, Krim, along with physician Dr. Joseph Sonnabend and activist Michael Callen formed the New York City-based amfAR that we recognize today. The new organization prioritized research, development, and policy influence. AmfAR was one of the first foundations of its kind to embody all of these aspects of healthcare at once.
Today, amfAR continues to drive new and innovative research and development by providing grants and fellowships to organizations. One such grant went to the Family Institute of Health, while another went to individuals through the Mathilde Krim Fellowships in Basic Biomedical Research. To date, amfAR has provided over 3,300 grants to research teams across the world and has invested over $400 million in research that targets effective treatments for HIV and AIDS-related illness.
The majority of amfAR’s funding goes to research, and as a result, it has seen outstanding success in improving many aspects of treatment and prevention. It even played a critical role in the development of community-based clinical research trials in the 1980s. The organization has also promoted the involvement of AIDS patients in the drug approval process, an approach not previously implemented. It has been a vocal advocate for public health concerns, ranging from needle exchange programs to the push for more comprehensive public education. In recent years, the Institute for HIV Cures Research and amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE) were both created to aid the Countdown to a Cure for AIDS.
Meirelles Helps Fund Research
To increase support for these initiatives, amfAR is funded through various sources including donations and fundraisers. AmfAR’s largest source of revenue comes specifically from its fundraising activities. Meirelles is an active supporter of these events, including its largest charity event: AmfAR’s Annual Cinema Against AIDS. The gala raises money through the sale of a limited number of exclusive tickets, as well as by auctioning rare memorabilia.
Celebrities frequently donate items and experiences to be auctioned off on behalf of the foundation; past donors have included Kate Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, and Uma Thurman. Noteworthy items and experiences have included photographs by Andy Warhol, portrait sessions by Annie Leibovitz, stays in celebrities’ houses, diamond jewelry, and luxury automobiles. Heidi Klum once donated her Bentley S3 convertible, which fetched a record $265,000. The most recent gala, held in Cannes, France, raised around $20 million.
AmfAR’s ultimate goal with this funding is to find a scientific cure for AIDS. The organization created the Countdown to a Cure for AIDS in February 2014 as a way of speeding up this process. AmfAR has committed to helping researchers develop a cure by 2020, its most ambitious goal to date. The amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research at the University of California, San Francisco, began in 2015 as the central facility to achieve the Countdown to a Cure mission.
The Countdown to a Cure is an investment initiative with the stated goal of providing $100 million in funding to scientists working to find a cure. Most of the grants are given through applications at the University of California, San Francisco. The organization is well on its way to reaching the $100 million goal, having already granted over $3.5 million to six research teams under ARCHE (amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication) and $1.2 million to a variety of other AIDS innovators.
Meirelles hopes that through her continued support of amfAR, the goal of finding a cure by 2020 is within reach. The galas and events continue to bring in record amounts of funding for the cause, and the recent groundbreaking news of a second confirmed cure will hopefully bring about the final push needed to make this goal a reality.