The African proverb "it takes a village" is often used to describe how the upbringing of a child is the responsibility of the extended family -- a communal effort. And as there is nothing more precious than the life of a child, it's beyond justification that every day 700 babies are needlessly born with HIV. Over the past 32 years, AIDS has killed more than 35 million people, many of them children. So when it comes to looking at what it will take to win the fight to end AIDS, the saying "it takes a village" has never had more meaning. Putting an end to this terrible disease is now within the world's reach, but "the village" must consist of governments, NGOs, the private sector and every one of us.
Today the AIDS fight is in far better shape than it was ten years ago. The cost of lifesaving antiretroviral medication (ARVs) is down from $20,000 a year, to as little as $150 .. that's just 40 cents per day. The number of people living on ARVs has risen from just 300,000 in 2002 to nearly 10 million today. While enough progress has been made to show that ending this pandemic is possible, it won't happen easily. To win this battle, we need real focus and collective action. The world has so much to gain, and at the same time, so much to lose if it gets this wrong.
As the CEO of (RED), it is my job to ensure the private sector steps up and participates in the AIDS fight. Not only does private sector engagement enable the Global Fund to meet its charter as a public-private partnership, but it demonstrates to governments that the private sector is actively committing funds to the AIDS fight -- and in turn, so must they. But, the private sector engagement is not just about money. Companies bring their skill sets to the table and play an important role in using their reach and influence to generate the heat necessary to keeps AIDS on the agenda.
Collectively, the private sector has shown what it can do. Thanks to support from corporate partners, (RED) has been able to generate more than $240 million to date to fight AIDS in Africa. In real terms, that money has helped to positively impact the lives of more than 14 million people by financing programs on the ground in Africa which deliver prevention, testing, treatment and counseling.
As a component of the Millennium Development Goals, ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015 fast approaches. Achieving this target is one of milestones that begins the end of AIDS, an extraordinary possibility that was considered impossible a decade ago. But, to get there it really will "take a village." Following World AIDS Day, yesterday Dec. 1, I ask all businesses out there to look at the role they can play. When medicine costing as little as 40 cents a day can help a mother stay alive and prevent her passing the virus on to her baby, delivering an AIDS-Free Generation is the best return on investment in the world.
This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, The Global Fund and (RED), in recognition of both World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) and the Global Fund's replenishment launch (taking place in Washington, D.C., December 2-3, where global leaders will determine how much money to allocate to the Global Fund over the next three years). The Global Fund is the Geneva-based financing organization that leads the fight against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. (RED) has to date raised $215 million, with 100 percent of that money going to the Global Fund to fund AIDS programs in Africa. To see all the other posts in this series, visit here. To help fight AIDS, check out the "DANCE (RED) SAVE LIVES 2" album here and watch the DANCE (RED) SAVE LIVES 2 livestream on World AIDS Day from Australia here on the Huffington Post.