The (RED) Campaign: Fighting HIV/AIDS Amid COVID-19

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SEATTLE, Washington — In 2006, Bono, vocalist and lyricist of U2, and Bobby Shriver, activist and a member of the Kennedy family, launched Product Red or (RED). The campaign partners with infamous brands to cultivate (RED) branded goods and services that, when bought, generate donations to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS initiatives within sub-Saharan Africa. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, (RED)’s efforts to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemics are essential in keeping vulnerable communities safe and decreasing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

How it Works

The Global Fund is a partnership between the private sector, governments, and NGOs that helps local experts create and maintain community programs to fight HIV/AIDS. Thus far, (RED) has contributed about $650 million toward the Global Fund and reached more than 180 million people with HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, counseling, testing and care services.

Some of the iconic brands (RED) partners with include Apple, Beats and Starbucks. Apple has contributed $220 million through (PRODUCT) RED devices and accessories. Beats donated a portion of proceeds from all (PRODUCT) RED Beats Solo3 wireless headphones and (PRODUCT)RED™ Beats Pill+ portable speaker sales. Additionally, Starbucks has raised more than $16 million via its yearly fundraising campaign on World AIDS Day.

HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 in Impoverished Communities

HIV causes AIDS, which disrupts the body’s ability to fight infection. In other words, those who have AIDS are immunocompromised, increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can suppress and slow the progression of HIV, which can reduce the chances of someone with HIV/AIDS becoming ill from viruses like COVID-19.

That being said, those living in poverty are less likely to have access to antiretroviral medication and other lifesaving resources. They are also at a high risk of developing HIV as a result of socio-economic factors, among others. Roughly 70% of the world’s poor live in Africa. (RED) focuses on sub-Saharan Africa because it is home to two-thirds of the population with HIV and accounts for 90% of mother-to-child transmission.

HIV/AIDS significantly impacts impoverished communities due to their lack of medical care, counseling and education. By lacking access to these critical sources, vulnerable communities cannot apply preventative measures to their daily lives. For example, impoverished women in Africa are extremely vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because they may take part in commercial sex transactions as a means of survival for themselves and their dependents. Moreover, disadvantaged women often lack access to or cannot afford antiretroviral therapy and other resources. As a result, they can pass HIV/AIDS to their sexual partners, who are likely also impoverished. Lack of access to and knowledge of protection and birth control also contributes to the wide-spread contraction of HIV/AIDS.

(RED)’s Initiatives

The (RED) campaign funds grants that fight the spread of HIV/AIDS using a multifaceted approach. The first step is prevention, including increasing access to condoms, using antiretroviral medicines as pre-exposure prophylaxis and increasing reproductive health education. The next step is ensuring that everyone who has HIV is tested, so they are aware of their infection and have access to antiretroviral therapy. Moreover, the prevention of mother-to-child transmission is incredibly crucial and can be addressed by testing all expectant mothers for HIV to ensure those infected are treated. Education and empowerment are essential for impoverished women and girls. As such, (RED) also funds grants that give women access to job training and safe spaces.

As the pandemic runs its course during these uncertain times, it’s of utmost importance to support and aid the most vulnerable populations who are more at risk of health consequences. With the public’s support, the (RED) campaign and the Global Fund work to ensure impoverished communities worldwide can fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

—Elizabeth Davis
Photo: Flickr

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