Montreal is known ubiquitously for its fashion sense and fabulous nightlife, and this February 21st, Montrealers from across the city will be dressed up and donning their most outrageous masks for the Farha Foundation’s annual MASKARADE ball. For the past 20 years, the Farha Foundation has raised close to 9 million dollars for the fight against HIV/AIDS, with the money raised being distributed to organizations throughout the province that provide various services to those living with the disease.

The theme for this year’s MASKARADE is “INSPIRE” and Linda Farha, a member of the board of directors for the foundation took some time out of her hectic pre-ball schedule to answer a few of our questions about the foundation and what we might expect from this year’s gala event!

DAY JOBS AND THE NIGHTLIFE: The Farha Foundation started in 1992 and to date has raised 8.7 million dollars, which has contributed to supporting people in Quebec living with HIV/AIDS; did you ever expect the foundation to grow to have such a significant role in fighting stigma and raising awareness in the community?

LINDA FARHA: The Farha Foundation was started by my late brother Ron with the belief that AIDS would quickly be a disease of the past. He asked my mother, my family, his friends and the community to make sure to keep the Foundation alive until a cure was found and expected that this was imminent. Of course, unfortunately he was wrong. So, to answer your question, no. We thought that the need for the Farha Foundation would be short-lived.

From your point of view, how has the attitude towards HIV/AIDS changed over the last 20 years?

I think we’ve gone full circle. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, everyone was afraid of dying and people were exercising caution. As we entered the millennium, treatments became more accessible and easier to handle and those living with the disease were living longer and with greater ease. Today, treatments are so advanced that people are not concerned about contracting the disease, as it’s not top of mind. While the progress is great, AIDS is still and terminal illness with no cure in sight and it still remains that 2 people a day become HIV positive in Quebec, and that’s just the cases we know about (approx. 20% do not get tested).

The MASKARADE gala is one of the most important annual fundraising events supporting HIV/AIDS awareness in Montreal; where did the idea for a MASKARADE gala come from and how has it evolved over the years?

MASKARADE is the most glamorous event of the Farha Foundation, and takes place one a year in the month of February. Previously known as “Black Tie Bingo”, in 2004 this gala was renamed as MASKARADE. The theme is different with every edition, and it is always chosen in memory of Ron Farha and those we have lost to the disease. The activities during the evening revolve around the theme that has been selected for the night. Many artists and partners participate in a luxurious silent auction, and all the profits go to the Farha Foundation.

Inspire” is the theme of this year’s event. What does the Farha Foundation hope to inspire in 2013? What do you hope to accomplish this year through the foundation?

The focus of MASKARADE 2013 is on our youth. They are our future and many are not aware that AIDS is preventable. The theme INSPIRE is about motivating those that can have an impact on our future. It’s about how they may be inspired by their parents, peers, mentors and heroes to one day be part of a generation void of HIV/AIDS.

What can we expect from the MASKARADE ball this year? Any hints about what we can hope to see?

The evening will start with a cocktail at 6:30pm, followed by a silent auction, a gourmet dinner, served by Ristorante BEATRICE, and dancing all night long. Silent auction items include two photographs by renowned artist-photographer Deborah Samuel; two dinners for four people at Café Ferreira, including wine; and a trip for two people to Doha, Qatar, including two business class tickets on Qatar Airways, and two nights at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Hotel and many more great items.

This year’s MASKARADE ball promises to be a night to remember and we will be there all night, having a ball. Check back here for photos from the night and maybe even a DJNL story or two.

For more information on the Farha Foundation, the MASKARDE ball or how you can help, please visit www.farha.qc.ca