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Inside (SHOPATHON)RED's Fight Against HIV and AIDS

We talk to RED CEO Deborah Dugan about her organization's continued efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS worldwide.

by Aly Comingore
Dec 1 2016, 11:18pm
December 1, 2016 marks the 28th World AIDS Day. Since its inception, the event has served as an annual reminder of the massive global impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the tremendous strides we've taken to eradicate the disease over the past 35 years. Today, over 37 million people are living with HIV/AIDS—and while effective and affordable treatment exists, most will not see medication in their lifetime.

With these stats in mind, U2 frontman Bono and activist Bobby Shriver founded (RED) in 2006. Through product sales and celebrity collaborations, the company has raised over $365 million to fight the AIDS in epidemic in Africa. This month, (RED) will continue to work towards their goal of ending the spread of AIDS from mother to child by 2020 through their annual holiday (SHOPATHON)RED, where limited edition products will be sold, and 100% of the proceeds will be put towards ending mother/child AIDS transmission.

Leading up to (SHOPATHON)RED's kickoff, we spoke to RED CEO Deborah Dugan about her organization's continued efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS worldwide.

VICE: Tell me about (SHOPATHON)RED.
Deborah Dugan:
It started with the idea of turning home shopping on its head and using it for good. As well as being fun, it also makes it easier to engage celebrities in promoting (RED) products to make money for the AIDS fight. As well as selling products, (SHOPATHON)RED also has celebrities "selling" themselves by offering unique, exciting, and irreverent experiences with them.

It also gets our partners really excited—they rush to make commitments before year's end. The Gates Foundation has been matching dollar for dollar, and media partners have jumped on board. Jimmy Kimmel's donated his entire show to (SHOPATHON)RED for the last two years, and AOL, iHeart, Wenner Media, and Vice have also been production partners in making great content. We're really grateful for everyone's participation, and along with making money, the concept pushes awareness through the roof. This year, we're lucky enough to be supported by extraordinary people including U2, Channing Tatum, Javier Munoz, Neil Patrick Harris, DJ Khaled, Liam Payne and so many more.

Is there a (SHOPATHON)RED fundraising goal for 2016?
We made $28 million last year. We want to do more than that this year, obviously, and I think we'll get there. This is also about keeping heat on an issue that's been around for 35 years and that can be a magnet for cause fatigue.

How does that number translate into the number of patients served and getting antiretroviral treatment?
Every dollar we make can provide 3 days of life-saving medication that helps a mom with HIV stay alive—and it also prevents the transmission of the virus to her baby, which is a double return on investment. This is what will get the world to an AIDS free generation by 2020—a critical UN milestone in the fight to end AIDS by 2030.

Can you share any stats on the number of mother-to-child transmission cases -- how many we've seen this year, how much they've declined since antiretroviral treatment became available?
We've been seeing a drop in numbers over the years since intervention started. In 2006, 1200 babies were being born every day with HIV—that number's now 400. We know that we can get that to near 0 by 2020.

If the majority of relief effort funding is coming from American taxpayers, where does government and the ONE Campaign fit in? What strides has the campaign made in 2016?
ONE was an important partner in the efforts to get the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria started in 2002. Before then, only 700,000 people globally were accessing ARVs, now that number is 18 million. This global health intervention is the greatest in history, mostly led by the US.

Every year we hear doctors and scientists say we're getting close to a cure. How far away are we?
The target date is 2030 to reduce prevalence to such a degree that we will have beaten AIDS.

What's the most commonly held misconception about HIV/AIDS and people living with it in 2016?
That the fight is over, or that it's such a big problem that it's unsolvable. Both could not be further from the truth.

What about the disease and RED's work do you wish more people knew about?
That, by 2020, the transmission of HIV from moms to their unborn babies can be virtually zero, and that by 2030 AIDS can be beaten once and for all.

For people who want to get involved, what do you suggest they do?
(SHOPATHON)RED isn't over tomorrow! You can do all of your Holiday Shopping on red.org through the end of December and gift chances for an Omaze experience at omaze.com/red.

Follow Aly Comingore on Twitter.

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