After several of Stephen Holder's friends died from HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, he wanted to raise money and awareness about the disease to help save the lives of others.
"In the '90s, I had a lot of friends die from (AIDS), but now it's a much more manageable disease," Holder says. "If you don't take care of it, it's a horrible disease, but now there are drugs that people can take, and with education the survival rate is much higher."
Holder, a Jackson native, is the chairman of Mississippi HeARTS Against AIDS, a non-profit organization that raises money for medical, transportation and living expenses for Mississippi residents living with HIV/AIDS.
Holder has volunteered countless hours over the past few weeks to help organize the 18th annual Mississippi HeARTS Against AIDS benefit this Saturday, Feb. 13, 6 p.m. at Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St). The benefit features a live and silent art auction with 300 donated pieces of artwork including photography, painting, sculpture and jewelry. Artist including Tony DiFatta, H.C. Porter, Lea Barton, William Dunlap and Lucy Mazzaferro donated the artwork. The event will also feature live music and food from 50 local restaurants.
In addition to working with HeARTS, Holder also serves on the board at Grace House, a transitional living space for people with HIV/AIDS. Holder says that those living with the disease should receive equal care and treatment.
"Everyone deserves a chance regardless of race, class, gender or sexuality," he says.
Holder graduated from Millsaps College in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in sociology. He works as a senior business analyst at EnSafe in Jackson and lives in Fondren.
Tickets for the Mississippi HeARTS Against AIDS benefit are $35, and $20 for students with an ID. For more information, visit the organization's Web site. or contact Stephen Holder at [e-mail missing] or at 601-366-9084.
I'm really looking forward to this event and hope the weather cooperates!
- Duann Kier Sywanyk