DUBAI (Reuters) - Hollywood star Sharon Stone hopes to raise above $1 million dollars for AIDS research at an auction in Dubai to spread awareness about the deadly virus that remains taboo in the Arab world.
Cinema Against AIDS, an artist-led drive to raise funds for AIDS research, is being held on the sidelines of the fourth Dubai International Film Festival.
"We're happy as artists to know that we're coming together in the movie community to work in AIDS awareness," Stone told Reuters on Monday night as she arrived on the red carpet.
"We've been very happy to have been for many years at the Cannes film festival and the Rome festival and now we're happy to be here."
Also in Dubai to support the drive was Gloria Estafan, and Michelle Yeoh, star of Memoirs of a Geisha.
Wearing a long black satin dress and a purple fur wrap-over, Stone paused for photographers before she opened the auction on behalf the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).
"At this point we are already at $800,000, so we certainly know we're going to walk out with above a million and that's already good," said Stone, chair of amfAR global fundraising.
Cinema Against AIDS events have generated over $30 million for research on AIDS since 1993. Since 1985, amfAR has invested $260 million, helping more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.
But AIDS remains a taboo issue in the conservative Arab world, linked in the public imagination to homosexuality, prostitution or drug abuse. It is not unusual for families of AIDS victims to keep it a secret to avoid any social stigma.
"We've done it for 25 years, we've done it in the United States when no one was speaking about it then, we do it in Asia and we'll do it here ... in a way that is not offensive ..., but at the same time hopefully awakening and interesting," said amfAR's Chairman Kenneth Cole, an American fashion designer.
"AIDS needs to be discussed all over the world, so we are excited to have the chance to do it here."
Cinema Against AIDS was first held at the Cannes film festival in 1993 and was hosted by Elizabeth Taylor, amfAR's founding international chairwoman.