the power of a (RED) purchase

the story of an incredible mother and (RED) ambassador
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In March 2004, my husband fell ill and I decided that it was time to go for an HIV test. The results showed I had the virus, which was devastating news. But that was “then,” and I am so glad to be able to tell the story of “now.” I am not alone in having a story which starts with such sadness, but today it is one of great happiness and health.

I live in Zambia, a country which, over the last two decades, has lost far too many of its people to this deadly virus. And even though we’re still battling the pandemic – roughly 1.2 million people are living with HIV in Zambia today – we are moving in the right direction because so many people today are on treatment and living with HIV, not needlessly dying.

Thanks to the work of incredible organizations like The Global Fund to fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), as well as many Zambian health programs, life-saving antiretroviral treatment has been made available to those in need. The cost of the ARVs has come down to 30 a day, and in 2015 for the first time ever, the number of people getting treatment rose to 15 million, outnumbering those newly diagnosed with HIV.

But how are grants like this made possible? In addition to governments financing Global Fund programs, the work of organizations like (RED) is absolutely critical, not only for driving private sector money to the fight, but also for awareness. Through their partnerships with some of the world’s best known companies, such as aden + anais, Apple and Starbucks, to name a few, (RED) has not only managed to generate more than $350 million for the Global Fund to help fight against AIDS in Africa, but they have focused so much of the world’s attention around ending this terrible disease.

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The beginning of the end of AIDS starts with helping mothers like me prevent the transmission of the HIV virus to our unborn babies. I wish I had access to treatment in the 90’s…access, which not only could have prevented me passing on the virus to my three children, but also could have kept them alive today. We didn’t have treatment then, but I do now.

In November of 2012, I gave birth to my youngest child: a beautiful daughter named Lubona after her sister, whom she will never get to meet and who would have been 23 this year, had she lived. Words cannot express the joy I feel when I hold Lubona in my arms today. She is HIV free and I am a healthy mother able to raise my healthy child. To me, this is the definition of a modern day, medical miracle.

Today I have the privilege of seeing other women and children in Zambia, faced with the same life-threatening predicament, participate in programs which really and truly are driving the end of AIDS. We have made progress toward the goal of eliminating mother to child transmission by 2020, and broadening progress on treatment and prevention, bringing us one step closer to an AIDS FREE GENERATION.

photo credit: (RED)
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