Rural areas suffered the bruntof private and federal AIDS cutbacks after 9/11—but Susan MacNeil’stown, steeped in AIDS stigma, hardly cared. The ASO she directs inKeene, New Hampshire—AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region—lost nearlya third of its funding by 2003. So MacNeil proposedan HIVer boardinghouse in nearby Gilsum—and locals immediately bannedboardinghouses.

Without money or support, MacNeil wentsearching for glass slippers—size 13. “Some locals thought the skywould fall when I brought in drag queens,” she says. Instead the Ladiesof the Rainbow Lounge and their pumps brought the house down—onetownsman even leaped onstage. The  fourth performance, on March19, sold out all 127 seats, raising $2,500.

In MacNeil’s April 8fundraiser, Living Beyond the Lab Results, five positive womenrecounted their life stories. The director, Jo Schneiderman, says itshows “how these women live their lives in [areas] where people thinkthere’s no AIDS.” On June 25, look for the “Karaoke Idol” competition—and community cheer even Simon Cowell couldn’t sour.

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