THIS city has entered into an era that is so disturbing. Only a few must know about it, fewer even talk about it or everyone seems to be pretending is doesn't exist, it is stared at with a blind eye.

What we thought to be an epidemic that is spreading like wildfire over the Western world and our region, dubbing Thailand as its capital, HIV/AIDS is not too far from where we are standing now.

You would think that the disease thrives more elsewhere in the country and an epidemic far from happening in our city. But the sad and scary reality is it is here and has been here in Davao for quite some time now. We have been staring at the disease at its face and yet we don't know it, or refuse to acknowledge its existence. HIV cases are growing rapidly within our midst and statistics have shown show that we rank NUMBER 2 on the list after the National Capital Region. Sunstar Davao printed this alarming news last October 15th.

The fact is there are some 5,864 confirmed HIV positive cases since the first case came out in 1984. Out of the 170 cases have been reported in the Davao region, Davao City has 144 cases and rising.

More surprisingly, even at the multi-media age where information about safe sex is disseminated zealously in all its channels, it still doesn't hit its mark.

Has the younger generation become fearless?

Statistics has it that it is the young age group that comprises the majority of the infected- 47% come from the 25-29 age group and 35% from 20-24 years old- and these cases involved the "men who have sex with men" (MSM) and transgender (TG) sector.

Interventions and massive information drives by advocacy groups, diligent they may be, are frustrated with the rising cases.

More recently, a couple of individuals in Panabo lost their lives due to the AIDS. Sad news, yes, but do you hear the alarm ringing? The city health officer delivered the report but admits that the budget and their manpower is not enough to do their information drive.

The disease may be dreadful but what's worst is the victim dreaded by society if he/she comes out in the open. The ignorance level of the public with regards to the nature of the disease is still unbelievably high.

So what are we to do to take the information further?

Here's a small group of young, socially active professionals who wants to do their part. Joel R., Otoy M., Kenneth O., Marris L. and John B.'s original plan to celebrate Halloween with the majority of the city's weekend warriors in their guest list and make it the talk of the town. Soon enough it sprouted to a civic-oriented affair. They all agreed to make this event a channel to send forth the news of the gnawing disease that infects society and how it can be prevented from spreading. Small their voices may be, gathering more voices will make the information be heard.

Leather and Lace is the theme of this Halloween Ball on Saturday, October 30th at the Paseo de Lagaspi. It is a look that correlates to bondage and freeing yourself from bondage of whatever form entails knowledge and will power. Armed with these, emancipates you from ignorance, fear and yes, the contraction of the this terrifying illness.

Fun was not to be absent and social responsibility was injected. They can drum up their health care cause through this non-gender specific event since HIV/AIDS does not choose its victims the group says of this coming gathering. Everybody is welcome to this theme party.

Through the social networking channel Facebook, a large number of people have expressed their intention to attend. There is no cover charge, a bar will host free drinks and prizes will be awarded to deserving individuals but your generosity through donations will be gratefully welcomed. All proceeds of this event will fund their HIV/AIDS information campaign.

Shout it out! Free yourself from bondage and party with a worthwhile cause. Take part in stopping HIV/AIDS from spreading in Davao City.

(The group is extending their gratitude to the companies extending their helping hand in making this event possible: Legaspi Suites, Kamagoo, The Bar & Coke Zero.)