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House of DIFFA’s Couture Jacket Auction is a Life Saver

DIFFA Dallas doesn’t just want to throw the fashion party of the year. They want to get your attention.
| |Photography by Elizabeth Lavin
Diffa fashion
It's not just about the fashion, DIFFA Dallas is dressing the issue in couture. (The model is Beatrice Hiller. Hair and makeup by Angela Angel. Hiller was styled by Hunter Cordell.) Elizabeth Lavin

Sure, event organizer and wedding planner extraordinaire Julian Leaver knows how to throw a memorable party. Sure, for this year’s DIFFA Dallas event in May he’s taken inspiration from just about every decade’s barrier-breaking cultural destination, from Studio 54 to London’s punk scene to Coachella. And, sure, he expects the fundraiser’s catwalk jacket auction to break records. But he and event co-chairs Richard Rivas and Haley Clark want to make something very clear: this isn’t just another exclusive black-tie-and-sequins, celebrity-shoulder-rubbing, Champagne-and-floral-party-wall fundraiser. DIFFA Dallas, the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, wants you to put on your party frock because they want you to help save lives in North Texas.

Many people now think of H.I.V. and AIDS as pandemics of yesteryear, their deadly impact stymied by antiretroviral drug cocktails and preventative pills such as PrEP. But during 2021, thanks in part to COVID-19 disruptions, more than 1.5 million people were infected with H.I.V. worldwide, many of them young girls. According to U.N.AIDS, around 650,000 people died of AIDS that year, which works out to about one every minute.

Dallas isn’t immune. Dallas County HHS hasn’t provided data since 2017, says Rivas, but at that time the organization estimated that more than 18,000 people were living with H.I.V. in Dallas County alone.

“The biggest struggle of any organization like DIFFA working to create the first AIDS-free generation is stigma and public apathy towards H.I.V./AIDS,” Rivas says. “We thankfully live in a world where someone, when given proper care and treatment, will die with H.I.V. and not from it. However, that causes many to not think about protecting themselves.”

It also means many go without testing and treatment. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there were 735 new diagnoses of H.I.V. in Dallas County in 2019; nearly 28 percent of those people had gone so long without diagnosis or treatment that they were diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. 

Even in the United States, access to prevention and treatment tends to be limited to privileged groups, which results in unequal distribution. In Dallas County, the vast majority of cases, more than 78 percent, impact Black and Hispanic individuals.

“One in eight people living with H.I.V. right now don’t know it,” Rivas says. “One in every four people diagnosed with H.I.V. or AIDS are not getting the medical care they need. We believe stigma plays a big part in that. People are afraid of what others, including their own doctors, might think of their H.I.V. diagnosis.”

DIFFA Dallas uses the funds raised to provide unearmarked dollars to 25 local organizations that provide direct care services to adults, children, and families impacted by H.I.V./AIDS. Combined, these organizations serve the more than 22,000 people across North Texas living with the diagnosed disease. 

That’s why Leaver feels this year’s theme—The List—is important. “We want everyone to be involved,” he says. “We want everyone to feel included. Everyone is on The List.” 

The fundraiser’s many events include a cocktail reception, seated dinner, couture runway show, and designer jacket auction. Here’s a preview.


House of DIFFA’s Couture Jacket Auction is a Life Saver

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For more information about HIV/AIDS diagnosis, treatment, and resources, contact the Resource Center, 5750 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-521-5124.

This story originally appeared in the April issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Life Jackets. Write to [email protected].


Kathy Wise

Kathy Wise

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Kathy Wise is the editorial director of D Magazine. A licensed attorney, she won a CRMA Award for reporting for “The…