Under brightly colored stage lights, two transgender emcees in red dresses and high heels welcomed trans-friendly and LGBT Israelis at the annual Wigstock event last Friday night.
The festival — which took place at Tel Aviv’s Artist Club — was organized to raise awareness of HIV among the gay community. The two-hour show featured 20 Israeli drag queens lip-syncing their way through a list of pop songs.
Same-sex couples mingled with other club-goers. Drag queens in heavy stage makeup welcomed fellow partiers and greeted friends. There was an obvious sense of community at the club.
Yochi Kanrus, 35, attended the event as a form of moral support.
“I came to the party because my partner is transitioning into the trans community,” he explained.
Ruth Greenberg, 32, another guest, said she thought Israel as a whole needs to improve on its awareness strategy.
“Tel Aviv is doing well on spreading awareness, but I think the country needs to do a lot more [for the cause],” she felt.
According to the Ministry of Health, there are currently 6,500 Israelis affected with HIV. But Yuval Livnat, director of the Israel AIDS Task Force, believes there are actually more, as 65% of the population haven’t been tested for the virus.
Livnat also believes Israel could improve on raising awareness about the spread of HIV.
“We’re far behind when it comes to educating teens about safe sex,” he said. “Most students go to high school without anyone talking to them about it. And parents don’t talk to their children about sex, even though there are children having sex at a much younger age than before.”
A portion of the Wigstock ticket sales went toward the Israel AIDS Task Force, as an organization geared toward providing information, encouragement, support groups and advice to those living with HIV.