It might be easy to forget in the rush of the holiday season, but AIDS is still with us, and the tragedy is even more depressing when youngsters are affected. So the task of putting on a benefit show for children with AIDS -- and giving it an upbeat tone -- might seem, well, almost impossible.

"Actually it only took us about three hours to get everyone to perform in this," says Ray Chesnick, organizer of such a benefit tonight at Friends. "The response has been so positive." Chesnick's and co-organizer Mark Jolin's idea was a cabaret show, with 20 local entertainers, running from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Performers slated to appear include Roy Barber, Beverly Cosham, Joan Cushing (Mrs. Foggybottom), Jane Pesci, Caron Tate and Debra Tidwell.

Chesnick expects to raise close to $7,000 for the Whitman-Walker Clinic -- a minimum $5 donation is requested at the door and items like artworks and restaurant dinners will be auctioned off. All performers are appearing for free and everything else is donated. But instead of earmarking the money for research, Chesnick is targeting it for entertainment for the sick children. "We wanted to do something different, something memorable for them," he says.

And at Tracks on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., there will be another AIDS fundraiser, also for Whitman-Walker. "The Christmas Cabaret" costs $5 and will include jazz and popular music by local performers.

Mikhail Minutiae

Even though the Soviets are gone, there are a few artistic leftist leftovers from the Gorby invasion:

There's been a steady stream of creations -- songs, paintings, sculpture -- in honor of the summit. For example, a Norwegian artist dropped off a photocopy of a peace drawing depicting a woman looking toward a bright sun. She says she tried to take the drawing to Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan. Many more tried to get messages to Mikhail, though few were successful because of the slam-shut security of the three-day event. Curiously, one who pierced the Iron Curtain was New York sculptor Edwina Sandys -- the granddaughter of Winston Churchill, who coined the "iron curtain" phrase. Sandys presented two aluminum sculptures of her work, "War and Peace," to Soviet and American officials at the State Department last week.

For the blind, the Library of Congress is making available a recorded version of Gorbachev's book, "Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World." Produced by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the work is now on flexible disks for quick production, and cassettes and braille versions will be available soon.

A Connecticut woman, Ruth M. Belisle, has taken international cooperation one step further. For the three years Gorbachev has been in office, she's bought him a membership at the Smithsonian and she renewed it this year. In tribute to Belisle's generosity, Smithsonian Secretary Robert McC. Adams invited the Soviet leader to the Smithsonian, but there were no sightings of him there.

And Gorbachev wasn't the only popular Soviet in town. "St. Sebastian," the Titian painting lent to the National Gallery last week in honor of the summit, is being heavily visited. "The response has been great -- there's a lot of curiosity," says the NGA's Randall Kremer. El Greco's "Laoco on," which will be headed to the Soviet Union in 1989, is in the same hallway in the West Building. The Titian, unlike the politician, is staying for a while -- until Feb. 15. Dina Dancers

It pays to have friends in high places. Supersocialite and actress Dina Merrill is bringing the Mafata Dance Company to the Kennedy Center Tuesday night. "I'm just the front lady," says the heiress, daughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Merrill, a member of the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, brought the fledgling multiethnic company from the Bronx to the attention of a friend, Kennedy Center Artistic Director Marta Istomin, and it landed them a spot in the "Dance America" series here. The company grew out of classes taught by Lornar Mafata at Merrill's favorite charity, the New York City Mission Society. "The company has just developed out of our organization, and I'm just amazed that it's now ready to stand by itself," says Merrill. Deadlines

Two important deadlines this week:

Registration for DC Art/Works' (formerly Arts DC) summer employment program is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. District residents between 14 and 21 years of age and interested in working in the arts must bring their birth certificate, Social Security card, and proof of residence and family income to 500 C St. NW, Room 103. The program places more than 1,600 youths for seven weeks with 45 arts organizations, ranging from ballet and African dance troupes to arts administration groups.

And the D.C. Commission on the Arts will accept applications for festival and summer program funds until Friday. The commission will provide as much as $10,000 in financial assistance to nonprofit arts organizations presenting arts fairs and groups interested in employing and training young people in the arts this summer. Call 724-5613.