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This year’s October festival aims to make meaningful impact

As Pride Fort Lauderdale slowly makes progress in jettisoning the last vestiges of its former name – selling its remaining “Pride South Florida” t-shirts and changing its name in its bylaws and on its website – progress is also being made in its upcoming Pride festival.

This year’s Pride, rescheduled to October 10 and 11 to avoid a conflict of interest with Wilton Manors’ Stonewall festival in June, will be held at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale’s Holiday Park.

“We want to make it meaningful,” said Pride Fort Lauderdale Chair Norm Kent. To that end, Kent said the focus will be on encouraging HIV/AIDS testing by festival goers.

“We want people to come into the festival with testing vans lined-up,” said Kent, who envisions a clock counting down the number of tests given. “1,000 tests or bust,” said Kent, who compared the possible presentation of the testing vans to movies where bikini-clad women wave starting flags amidst rows of classic cars lined-up and ready to race.

And just like speed records set in those movies, Kent talked of possibly going for a Guinness World Record for the number of HIV/AIDS tests administered at a single venue. Helping to provide the tests as this year’s presenting sponsor is AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

If Pride does decide to go for that record, it will have to beat the United Nations AIDS program and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health. Those two organizations hold the record for most HIV/AIDS tests [3,383 people in eight hours]. A feat that was accomplished on World AIDS Day, Nov. 30, 2014, in Gambella Stadium, Gambella, Ethiopia.

The focus of Pride on testing comes as South Florida faces a significant rise in the number of news HIV cases in South Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, in Broward, the increase is 16 percent from 244 this time last year to 282. In Miami-Dade, there’s a 20 percent increase from 339 last year to 407. In Palm Beach, there’s a 53 percent increase from 86 last year to 132.

Although testing is the meaningful focus behind the event, Pride’s official theme is “We’re Coming Out,” which coincides with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and the Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival that weekend.

Along with testing, planned events also include nighttime movies in the park, a parade along Fort Lauderdale beach and vendor booths. The Miss Pride contest will also be brought back and the AIDS Memorial Quilt, honoring those who have succumbed to the disease, will be on display.

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