For 13 years, the (RED) charity has lobbied a fight against AIDS via commerce. Partnering with some of the largest brands in the world, such as Apple, Nike, and Starbucks, the organization has raised well over $365 million to impact over 140 million people through programs in sub-Saharan Africa. Now the organization has pushed into art, with an unprecedented street campaign to raise awareness.
“Street artists have been raising the alarm in the fight against AIDS since HIV appeared – from the streets of New York in the 1980s, and now in cities around the world with Paint (RED) Save Lives,” organization co-founder and U2 frontman Bono said in a statement. ”There has been a lot of progress, more than many experts predicted, but not enough to put the sirens to rest. Young women continue to bear the brunt of this disease and, maddeningly, every week 6,000 of them are needlessly infected. I’d call that an emergency. (RED) is the color of emergency.” And though women certainly aren’t the only demographic adversely affected by the disease – black gay men in America statistically have a one out of two probability of contracting HIV in their lifetime, according to the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics – the fight to save these women, and their unborn children, is vital.
BRUSK - Wip(2019), Lyon

Starting in September, (RED) began to roll out its new campaign across the world. More than 25 of the world’s most talented street artists (Shepard Fairey, Karabo Poppy, Trevor & Cosmo, Add Fuel, BRUSK, and FAILE among others) began debuting work in major centers of culture around the world. London, New York, Berlin, Paris, Washington, D.C., Lima, Nairobi, New Delhi, Cape Town and more, saw murals and installations go up.

At a Montblanc event where the company celebrated their latest collaboration with (RED) – which will see them extend their lineup of products that donate five euros
per purchase to the effort – their Champs- Élysées boutique was drenched in red, while Belgian artists Denis Meyers and Arnaud Kool spray-painted over the facade in white. Billy Porter, Georgia May Jagger and Adrien Brody were among those who turned up at that event, while others, such as RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Milk, pushed the campaign on Instagram.

In New York City, Stephen Powers, who is known as ESPO, installed a piece of work titled I WANT TO THANK YOU. Many of the artists involved in the campaigns, as well as a selection of others, have auctioned pieces on Artsy with half of the proceeds going to the organization, too.

“I WANT TO THANK YOU is an expression of gratitude for the artist-activist David Wojnarowicz and for the Paradise Garage, where they spun Alicia Myers’ 1981 classic “I Want To Thank You,’” Powers tells Sorbet. Paradise Garage was also a popular nightlife hangout for the house-ballroom community of black and brown queer and trans individuals, who were ravaged by the disease throughout the ’80s and ’90s. “It’s also to thank everyone in the fight against AIDS; it’s a good moment to acknowledge the accomplishments and prepare ourselves for the work that remains unfinished.” And that work has been important.

While the fight against AIDS is still very much a reality, there has been significant progress made. Namely, over the past two years the U=U campaign has been pushed into the public consciousness, reinforcing the message that those who are living with HIV and are medicated and maintaining an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the disease. The work (RED) does, in part, utilizes this by supplying those living with the disease, particularly mothers or mothers-to-be, with the medication they need to reach and maintain an undetectable viral load.

In practice, this means that for each product that Montblanc sells from its collaborative line, those five euros provide one person’s medication for 25 days. A similar collaboration with the brand Louis Vuitton comes by way of a candle designed by noted designer Marc Newson. Every candle purchase will provide 300 days of medication. This all contributes towards a 2020 goal of ending the spread of AIDS from mother to child.

In October this year, in Lyon, France, world leaders pledged a historic $14.02 billion over the next three years for the Global Fund, a health organization fighting to end the epidemics of tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS by 2030. That number represents the largest amount ever for a multilateral health organization, and the largest amount raised by the Global Fund. Of that (RED) pledged $150 million of the historic $1 billion in total pledges from private donors.

“Those of us who survived HIV are here thanks to the Global Fund, but millions are still dying unnecessarily because they cannot access these life-saving programs,” Maurine Murenga, who serves on the Global Fund Board, said at last week’s conference. “Young women and girls have to be at the center of the response to HIV in Africa. It is unacceptable that young women and girls are still twice as vulnerable to HIV in sub- Saharan Africa and six times more vulnerable in the worst hit countries. We know change is possible and we have to act now.” The funds are jointly expected to save 16 million lives across the three epidemics.

Shepard Fairey - We Shape The Future Rose Shackle (2019), London