“Portrait of John Waters” (2022) by Catherine Opie. Image courtesy of Catherine Opie.

John Waters has received numerous awards for filmmaking. Next month, he’ll be honored for his philanthropy.

AIDS Action Baltimore will pay tribute to Waters, his friend and film industry colleague Pat Moran, and four others during its 35th Anniversary Commemoration next month at The Belvedere.

“John has supported us from the beginning,” said Lynda Dee, co-founder and executive director of the organization. “All of his movie premieres benefitted AIDS Action Baltimore. Without his help, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Waters, 76, learned in June that he is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has two museum exhibits coming up, “Coming Attractions: The John Waters Collection,” an exhibit of art from his personal collection that he’s donating to the Baltimore Museum of Art, at the museum from Nov. 20, 2022 to April 16, 2023; and “Pope of Trash,” a career retrospective at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles next summer.

Moran is a three-time Emmy Award-winning casting director who has worked closely with Waters, David Simon and others on films and television shows, including the “Lady in the Lake” series that’s currently being filmed in Baltimore. Moran is one of three co-founders of AIDS Action Baltimore, along with Dee and Garey Lambert, who passed away in 1987.

Other honorees include:

Richard Chaisson, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the Hopkins Center for AIDS Research;

Carla Alexander, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology, a Fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care, and an internationally-recognized expert for those living with HIV;

Debbie Rock, a disco singer-turned-HIV activist who is the founding CEO of LIGHT Health & Wellness, a non-profit that provides a range of services for children, families and individuals in Baltimore affected by poverty, addiction, mental illness, HIV/AIDs and other chronic illnesses, including day and respite care for children with HIV/AIDS; and

Carlton Smith, a community health worker with the State of Maryland, founder of the Center for Black Equity, and chair of the Ryan White Planning Council, which provides medical care and support services for people with HIV in Baltimore.

AIDS Action Baltimore was founded in 1987 to fight HIV/AIDS and provide a safety net for people living with HIV/AIDS and experiencing a financial emergency. Since 1987, it has supported more than 8,750 people, distributing $3.145 million in assistance for items such as rent and utilities. It also has a number of programs to fight HIV, from Town Hall meetings to testing assistance to prevention campaigns, including outreach efforts to at-risk populations. Jeffrey Grabelle is the office manager.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 31,676 people aged 13 and older were living in Maryland with diagnosed HIV at the end of 2020, and an estimated 3,559 people in Maryland were living with undiagnosed HIV at the end of 2019.

Dee wrote in June that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for AIDS Action Baltimore to provide the services it does.

“COVID-19 is eating a large percentage of U. S. Health and Human Services funding,” she wrote in an open letter to friends of the organization. “We are in danger of losing all our hard won treatment and prevention gains. Because of COVID-19, it is much harder to obtain the money we need to fight HIV.”

That’s why AIDS Action Baltimore holds events such as the one next month and a gathering in May that raised $10,000, she added: “We are still doing our best to help ourselves.”

AIDS Action Baltimore’s 35th Anniversary Commemoration is a cocktail reception and brunch that will be held on Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Belvedere, 1 E. Chase St. in Mount Vernon. Tickets cost $175 per person or $1,750 for a table of 10. They’re available at aidsactionbaltimore.org or by calling 410-437-AIDS.

Avatar photo

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.