Bono Seeing 'Red' Over AIDS

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," , who was flanked by Italian fashion tycoon Giorgio Armani and corporate executives who joined him for the announcement at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

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?' "

  • Brian Dakss

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