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A Trip to Vienna For The Glamorous and Gargantuan Life Ball AIDS Benefit: Towleroad Abroad

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It’s one thing to hear about Life Ball, the enormous charity extravaganza that takes over Vienna annually to raise support for HIV/AIDS charities, but it’s quite another to experience it first hand. The over-the-top affair, including palatial parties and star-studded spectacles, attracts all sorts of guests, from the fabulous to the fringe.

Above all, Life Ball, organized by AIDS LIFE, is dedicated to supporting organizations that work with people who are HIV-positive or have AIDS. The annual event is the largest AIDS charity event in Europe. Its massive impact is fueled by the scale, grandeur and, yes, at times, rowdiness of the party that draws in the big names, big crowds and, most importantly, big dollars. In 2014, for example, Life Ball raised 2.3 million euros from tickets, drink sales, an auction and other events. (For more on Life Ball’s charitable impact, see our post here.)

We joined a small army of media, celebrities and drag queens venturing to Vienna last weekend to witness all of the Life Ball Austrian adventure for ourselves. Although we’re still recovering from a fab 48 hours in the capital city, we’ve got plenty of highlights to share.

The hills are alive with the sound of YAS GAWD, AFTER THE JUMP

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Gay Pride Flags Out In Force During Russia's Eurovision Performance 'A Million Voices' - VIDEO

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The Pride flags were out in force on Tuesday night during Russia’s performance at the Eurovision semi-final.

At last year’s Eurovision final, Russian act the Tolmachevy Sisters received a less than enthusiastic reception. This year however, the audience appeared to be generally enthusiastic during Polina Gagarina’s performance of “A Million Voices”.

MoldovaRob Watts, who was at the semi-final co-hosted by Conchita Wurst in Vienna, told BuzzFeed that he noticed many more pride flags in the audience during Russia’s song than in any other performance. “We were all told to be nice to all the countries ‘no matter who is in charge.’ We were asked not to boo anyone.”

His friend Laura Cress said “there seemed to be much less resistance [and] apart from the extra flags everyone around us actually really liked the Russian entry.”

Gagarina is likely a shoe-in to win but with Australia performing and voting for the first time anything could happen especially as Moldova’s ridiculous but brilliant entry “I Want Your Love” (right) and the Netherlands' old-school entry didn’t even qualify for the finals.

Watch “A Million Voices”, “I Want Your Love” and the Netherlands' entry, AFTER THE JUMP...

The second semi-final takes place tonight followed by the grand final on Saturday.

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Even The Traffic Signals Are Going Gay For Eurovision 2014: VIDEO

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6a00d8341c730253ef01a3fd05dc1f970b-500wiAhead of next week’s Eurovision, Austrian capital Vienna has made even the traffic lights gay.

Vienna will host this year’s musical extravaganza after Conchita Wurst’s (right) victory last year.

In celebration, the city’s traffic signals now feature gay and lesbian couples, some with hearts above them, reports Pink News.

A spokesperson for the city said the change came about to attract the attention of pedestrians and drivers in order to improve road safety and to “present Vienna as an open-minded city.”

Watch Conchita Wurst’s winning performance at Eurovision 2014, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Austrian Magazine Runs Limited Edition Printed With HIV-Infused Blood

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Vangardist, an Austrian men’s magazine focused on LGBT issues, is distributing a limited run of an upcoming issue that’s printed using the blood of three HIV-positive people. The ink to be used in this May’s edition of the usually digital magazine will be infused with blood in which the virus has been rendered inert and is safe to touch. The special edition run of the magazines are a part of a campaign to better explain just how the HIV virus works and to combat the stigma that still plagues positive people today. Some three thousand copies of the issue will go on sale May 7th for 50 euros each (about $56).

"With 80% more confirmed cases of HIV being recorded in 2013 than 10 years previously, and an estimated 50% of HIV cases being detected late due to lack of testing caused by social stigma associated with the virus," Vangardist CEO Julian Wiehl explained. "This felt like a very relevant issue for us to focus on not just editorially but also from a broader communications standpoint.”

The magazine will only be made available to subscribers at launch before seeing a wider release later on in the month.


Thousands Protest Ejection Of Kissing Lesbian Couple From Vienna Cafe: VIDEO

Cafe Prueckel kiss in protest

Last week a lesbian couple was kicked out of a cafe in Vienna, Austria for daring to engage in a public kiss that was deemed by management to be appropriate for "a brothel."

Sooooo...public cunnilingus, presumably?

Backlash to the homophobia was swift, and as nothing is private anymore, Vienna's tourist agency denouncing the ejection is the least of Cafe Prueckel's worries. The bigger issue is the some 2,000 protesters who marched down the street on Friday, forcing the street to close. Several of the protesters engaged in long, amorous kisses of their own to drive the point home that they will not be discriminated against.

The prudish manager has since apologized for ejecting the couple, an apology that is no doubt utterly sincere contrition for her homophobia and not at all a weak attempt at damage control. Damage control which is not really possible, given the flood of photographs on Twitter, and videos available all over the internet, including a report from DailyMotion that you can watch AFTER THE JUMP...

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Austrian LGBT Couples Can Now Legally Adopt Children

AustriaThanks to a Wednesday decision made in the Austrian Constitutional Court, same-sex couples will now be able to adopt children. Previously, gay and lesbian couples could only adopt if one of the partners was the child’s biological mother or father.

Chief Judge Gerhart Holzinger explained that the court could find "no objective argument for a differing rule based solely on sexual orientation" of prospective parents.

Same-sex couples may form a “registered partnership” in Austria, but are not permitted to marry. 


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