Can Sharon Stone Topple AIDS Stigma in Dubai?

These days, when you want to raise serious bank, go to Dubai. That’s where Sharon Stone is hoping to rake in more than $1 million for AIDS research. And while the land of billion-dollar theme parks, artificial ski slopes and the world’s tallest building is rolling in it, the Arab emirate is also more-or-less stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to understanding the disease. On the red carpet at the Dubai International Film Festival (Cinema Against AIDS’ fundraising drive will be held concurrently), the Five Dollars a Day star said that the artsy side of entertainers like her—namely, Gloria Estefan and Michelle Yeoh—can delight in working together for a common cause. “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 Ms. Stone, 49, who is the global chair of fundraising for amfAR.

In much of the Arab world, of course, AIDS retains the social stigma of a disease contracted only by expendable undesirables—homosexuals, prostitutes, drug addicts and the like. But amfAR’s chairman, fashion mogul Kenneth Cole, is optimistic that the campaign will be well received in the Middle East, as it has been in other parts of the world. “We’ve done it for 25 years; we’ve done it in the United States when no one was speaking about it then,” he said. “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.”

After all, Dubai would certainly not be alone in its support. Since 1993, Cinema Against AIDS has raised more than $30 million. And since 1985, amfAR has supplied over 2,000 research teams worldwide with some $260 million. Can Sharon Stone Topple AIDS Stigma in Dubai?