Rock star and activist Bono launched a new push to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa on Thursday, unveiling a partnership with American Express and other companies to offer products under a brand called "Red," some proceeds of which will be funneled to the cause.
"So, here we are, fat cats in the snow, and I say that as one,"
The project, called "Red," will market red-themed products from Converse footwear, Gap clothing and Giorgio Armani, as well as a red American Express card to be offered initially only in Britain, as of next month.
Products branded "Red" will include sports shoes, T-shirts and sunglasses — some produced in Africa, some with African materials. A slice of the revenue — numbers vary by company and product — will go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
"We sought out iconic companies who make iconic products," said Bobby Shriver, who runs an organization called DATA — or Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa — and has been working with Bono for several years.
Bono — sporting his trademark wraparound sunglasses — seemed a trifle bemused beside his suited, polished partners.
But he quickly turned serious, his voice cracking slightly as he recounted the story of an HIV-positive young African who chose to take his single dosage of anti-retrovirals himself, denying the critical drug to his girlfriend and possibly condemning her to death.
He said each day brings 6,500 HIV-related deaths in Africa — and 9,000 new infections.
"We're losing in the battle ... Maybe it's an Irish macho thing, but I really don't like losing," the Ireland native said. "I'm calling it conscious commerce for people who are awake, people who think about their spending power and say: 'I've got two jeans I can buy. One I know is made in Africa and is going to make a difference and the other isn't. What am I going to buy?' "
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