It was 1984 New Orleans, and HIV/ AIDS was rampant in the gay community. It was taboo at the time – those affected by the disease had nowhere to go.
Until Project Lazarus was born.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans opened the doors of an old convent to those suffering from HIV/AIDS in 1985, originally as a hospice care center. Patients would come there to live their last moments with dignity and respect.
Through sadness and loss, a tradition was born. What started as a Halloween costume party amongst eight friends became a beacon of hope in the gay community.
Now known as Halloween New Orleans (HNO), the event that started as a small party has grown into a lavish weekend affair in October. The weekend first started as a way for the gay community to aid each other in the midst of the AIDS crisis.
And so, the spirit of the weekend is that of its founding: love.
You’ll find witches and warlocks, pirates and gypsies – costumes of all kinds. A second line takes you through the streets.
It’s a community coming together to share their love and sense of family, and coming to the aid of its own in the dark days of the AIDS crisis. It is a community triumphing over challenges with a resilient, joyful spirit.
To date, the weekend has raised over $4.5 million to benefit Project Lazarus, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the organization.Over 1,200 people have been served by Project Lazarus since its founding.
Today, Project Lazarus is no longer a hospice house. As treatment has evolved, so has the house itself.
It has become a place where people with HIV/AIDS come to live, to thrive, to heal.