Since its discovery in 1981, 35 million people have died from AIDS or AIDS-related diseases. The early years of the disease presented challenges for the medical community. However, as more people learned about the disease, another challenge emerged: how to best educate the public about the dangers of the disease without creating a stigma. This challenge still persists today.
The worldwide impact of AIDS is prolific. In 2015, 36.7 million people were living with HIV. Every day approximately 5,753 people contract HIV — about 240 every hour. In 2015, 1.1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 78 million people have contracted HIV and 35 million have died of AIDS-related causes.
In 2006, Bono, lead singer of the Irish band U2, and Bobby Shriver, an activist and attorney, created Product (RED) to advocate for better awareness of AIDS. The two men believed that if they combined the efforts of NGOs, governments, the medical community, global business brands and celebrities, they could create a powerful force to foster understanding of the disease. The influential allies also provided funding for research to eradicate the disease.
Product (RED) business partnerships include Apple, Gap, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola. By creating products specifically for Product (RED), the partnership allows consumers to use purchasing power to fund AIDS treatment and awareness around the globe. (RED) partners contribute a portion of their (RED) product profits to fight AIDS, and up to 50 percent of the profits go directly to fighting AIDS.
Over the past decade, Product (RED) raised $365 million to support the Global Fund. Product (RED) has become a global brand; the combination of awareness and research is powerful. The money raised by Product (RED) provides life-saving medicine for those living with AIDS in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.
When Product (RED) began, only 2.1 million people had access to medication. Through their efforts, the organization raised money to fund medication for more than 18 million people. They have also increased the access to medication; in rural areas of Africa, filling a prescription is not easily accomplished. However, Product (RED) and its partnership with the Global Fund help create a pathway for the medication, by making sure the medicine reaches the people that need it most, the system is more efficient and life-saving.
AIDS is a worldwide epidemic, but the decade of Product (RED) illustrates the power of the combination of global alliances and knowledgeable consumers as a force for change.
– Jennifer Graham