For the 17th time, the "Artists Against AIDS" gala raised money for a good cause. But the issue can never be "business as usual" in Berlin.
Marriage for all. So all is well? This question goes through my head as I head to the "Artists Against AIDS" gala. The memory is still fresh: shortly before the German election, the parliament decided that gay and lesbian people could marry. So really for "all"! Is this a breakthrough to full equality? The end of the prejudice and the stigmatization of HIV sufferers? Are AIDS galas like this now superfluous?
AfD and AIDS
I go to Berlin's Theater of the West to attend the annual gala. The establishment is slightly plush. Well-known drag queen Gloria Viagra effortlessly adapts to the style with a lush beehive and eyelashes like flycatchers. In the lightning storm of the photographers, Eurovision Song Contest icon Conchita Wurst (see photo above) preens, and is later cheered on stage.
But first small talk with prosecco — and without snacks.
Fron Left: Former Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, current Berlin Mayor Michael Müller and his wife Claudia attend the AIDS gala
Suddenly things take a bitterly serious turn when I talk to Barbara Becker, Boris Becker's ex-wife. She has long been committed to the AIDS Foundation. She mentions the right-wing populist AfD — which is now sitting in the parliament — and is concerned that the social climate could change, could become openly hostile.
Even before the election, an AfD politician called for the reporting obligation for HIV-infected people. Barbara Becker rejects this indignantly: "Discrimination"! A population register is the wrong approach and would "pillory" HIV sufferers. I agree with her.
Capital of positivity
But one thing no one is talking: Berlin's not called "the capital of the positive" for nothing. Nowhere else in Germany do more HIV-infected people live — 17,000 at last count. And every year another 430 people are added to the list.
Sure, the good health care here attracts many. But parties are also celebrated in which "safer sex" is considered uncool. I wonder: What about responsibility for oneself and for others? Not least, this also plays into the hands of the right-wing populists like the AfD.
So: the AfD. They're the white elephant in the room at the gala. The topic that everyone is thinking about but hardly anyone is talking about. Berlin's governing mayor Michael Müller is the second to make an exception. The SPD politician, otherwise blessed with the charm of a paper clip, suddenly floats on a wave of emotion when he exclaims with reference to the AFD: "I don't want to live in their Germany." Diversity and tolerance are values that all in the theater can agree on.
But outside it looks different. Even in the oh so liberal Berlin. Take restaurants and bars, for instance.
At the gala, the HIV Awareness Award honors the founders of the Regenbogen-Fonds (Rainbow Trust). In 1977, one of them opened "The Other shore," the first openly gay bar in Berlin. That was very courageous back then.
But today, gay bars have to close in the same neighborhood in Schöneberg. The customers stay away, some deterred by increasing levels of hate crime. The statistics back this up: "New record for homophobic crimes in Berlin," I recently read in one of the Berlin daily newspapers.
HIV patients from Russia
But Berlin is still a paradise compared to Kiev, Moscow, Cairo or even Chechnya. There, homosexuals are persecuted, beaten and tortured. And HIV patients are deprived of medical care.
The Berlin Aids gala is not only a political campaign front. It wants all refugees who suffer from HIV and come to Berlin to know that they have medical care. For this, money is also collected at the event.
But what nobody says: people who live here illegally or do not have refugee status and come to Berlin without insurance fall through the cracks. Berlin is so cruel. Mayor Müller and the Senate gladly wear their pledge against AIDS. But they also watch as people die from AIDS.
Now, at the very least, I realize that the "Artists Against Aids" gala ist still key - now more than ever.