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Bono Launches Campaign to End AIDS in Africa


Rock star Bono along with the leaders of three fashion companies and American Express have announced a campaign to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. The campaign was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where more than 2,300 business, political and humanitarian leaders are holding a five-day meeting.

The campaign is called Product Red and its goal is to involve private corporations in the fight against AIDS in Africa. Bono, the leader of the rock group U-2, told the leaders gathered at Davos that the world was losing the fight against HIV/AIDS. He said in Africa alone 6,500 people were dying of the disease every day.

The campaign, which already has the backing of American Express and such companies as Gap, Converse and Giorgio Armani, would involve the sale of shoes, T-shirts and sunglasses, as well as a special red card from American Express.

Money from the sale of these items will go to the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Adele Sulcas is part of the Private Sector Partnership Team of the Global Fund. She says to help combat AIDS, each company will create a special Red product.

"In the case of American Express, there is an American Express Red credit card," said Adele Sulcas. "And, one percent of all spending on the card will go directly to the Global Fund. In the case of Converse, they are creating a special edition shoe made from Malian mud cloth and that is their Red product. In the case of Armani, they are starting with a range of Red sunglasses and later in 2006, they are going to expand this to a full range of apparel and other accessories."

Sulcas says Gap is creating a line of T-shirts in a whole range of colors, including red.

The Fund has been in existence for several years and has raised $4.7 billion for programs to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. So far, only $5 million of that has come from corporate donors. Sulcas believes the Red campaign could turn this around because it is not a charity or philanthropic initiative. She says it is a business strategy that could directly help poor people.

"The beauty of that is that could lead to a sustainable funding stream," she said. "So, because these partner companies will see increased business and hopefully profits from Red, they are more likely to continue to invest in these kinds of initiatives in the future and the end beneficiary is the person needing anti-retroviral treatment in Africa."

All four companies have signed up for five years, and campaign organizers say they hope to sign up many more partners.