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Fact: In 2004, Latinos accounted for 20 percent of new AIDS cases and 19 percent of total AIDS cases in the United States. The numbers speak for themselves, the AIDS pandemic keeps affecting Latinos, our communities, here at home and in Latin America. Its real, its serious, and its deadly. This Wednesday, May 23, the Latino Commission on AIDS will hold its annual gala titled Cielo Latino, at Cipriani’s in Lower Manhattan. Personalities such as La India, Miss Universe 2007, Gael García Bernal and more are coming together to support the cause and help save lives. And countless others from volunteers, to researchers, to photographers, stylists and development officials have put in their grain of sand to make not only the gala happen, but  to educate Latinos and help eradicate AIDS once and for all.

Karlo, multifaceted makeup artist and creative director, has been one of the driving forces behind the Cielo Latino gala and one of the strongest advocates for AIDS education, especially stigma surrounding the disease. Here, in his own words, Karlo tells us why it matters to him, why he’s giving 200% of his time, energy and soul to the AIDS cause.

Name: Karlo
Age: Ageless
Occupation: Make-Up Artiste/Creative Director.
Upcoming projects: Give me some after Cielo, please.  I will need it.

The first time I heard about AIDS was when I was in high school, in the news, and then jokes amongst family members in regards to the disease, homosexuality, etc.  From the start, the idea of people finding others’ misfortunes comical, abhorred and upset me.  I had already lost one friend to AIDS and I could not identify with those disparaging life in ANY way.

I know, I’ve always been a warrior, I’ve always challenged the “status quo”.  Even when I was young, there were no “bendiciones” for those hypocritical aunts and uncles who did not deserve respect, they had to earn my “bendiciones”.  Hence, in the eyes of those who hold fundamentalist beliefs, those who create an imbalance in justice and equality, those who destroy the community of family and promote hatred, in their eyes I am turmoil and chaos. For I will fight prejudice and unfounded alienation that is based on nothing but ignorance and lack of education.  For others, those who strive for balance and equal rights and whose God is LOVE, they are my family. Those who, regardless of lineage, unconditionally love and support you in good and not-so-good times.

As a teenager, the task of building a family was a hard one. Very difficult, considering that members of my “family” were obviously out of the question. But losing to AIDS the new friendships I was starting to develop and mold into a family was the most backbreaking and heartbreaking thing. The thought of losing my best friend, whom I still call my brother, was the most overwhelming. What a sense of loss at such young age.

I decided a long time ago, as a human being, to reject all the prejudice, hypocritical, fundamentalist, religious beliefs and ignorance that some attempted to imbed in my brain. Instead, I embrace the world with a God of LOVE.  Only then and with education can we eradicate this pandemic and become beauty-full human beings.

I know that working with the Latino Commission on AIDS I have taken the flag and ran with it. I thank them for trusting me.  Working with them and Roy Cosme of Arcos Communications, feels like I’m constantly being guarded by a legion of angels.  But the wheel, the tiny wheel that is the genesis of all the movement within my mind, body and soul is called life, and is fueled by love.  If through all of this effort I can save just one life, then all exhaustion will suffice.

En exclusiva para NYRemezcla, Karlo has shared with us some of the photos from the gala journal he directed featuring Latinos supporting the cause, many of them New Yorkers. DJ Marcelo Cunning, actress Lupe Ontiveros, Latino Commission on AIDS president Denis DeLeón, singer La India and actress Patricia Velázquez express why it matters to them.

Learn how YOU can educate yourself and help out by visiting .