In the midst of the collective sadness about the situation and the devastation in the Gulf, tonight in New York City, there will be a moment, a bright shining moment actually, of hope. At the MoMA tonight, HBO and (RED)™ will host the premiere screening of "The Lazarus Effect" a remarkable 30 minute documentary that highlights the incredible advances that have been made in the treatment of those living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, and the collective effort made that has enabled these advances.
The numbers behind the progress are staggering.
In 2002, nearly 29,000,000 people were living with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and of all those people, just 50,000 could afford the $10,000 a year it cost at the time for the antiretroviral drugs they needed to stay alive.
These numbers are beyond daunting, beyond really the scope of comprehension but a remarkable group of individuals, organizations and leaders stepped up. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created to help manage the aid process; (RED) was created as a new creative capitalism model to help drive contributions to the Global Fund (RED) grants; organizations such as The Clinton Global Initiative worked tirelessly with pharmaceutical companies to help decrease the cost of medicine; PEPFAR was launched; and grass-root movements such as ONE lobbied government leaders to hold them accountable. The result? That $10,000 a year cost of medicine figure has been beaten and driven down to roughly forty cents a day for the 2 antiretroviral pills needed to help keep people with HIV/AIDS alive in Africa.
"The Lazarus Effect" documentary honors the progress and showcases the stories of those whose lives have been saved because of access to antiretroviral medicine, but it also reminds us that despite this progress, there still is much to do. Still today nearly 4,000 people die of AIDS in Africa every single day. Yet AIDS is a treatable and preventable disease.
To promote the film (RED) launched "The Lazarus Effect Campaign", a multi-media campaign created to help raise awareness of the transformative effect of the antiretroviral drugs.
This is the PSA which is just part of this noteworthy campaign.
The next chapter of the story is going to be written by each of us. We must each collectively do what we wish that we can, to help make sure that the coming years have the success and the saving of lives that the last eight years have had.
You can, of course, choose to go (RED) when you shop and contributions from these products go to HIV/AIDS programs supported by Global Fund (RED) grants in Africa - going (RED) is quite easy to do. I have a well worn (STARBUCKS) RED card that I use to buy my morning, and afternoon, coffee at Starbucks. I recharge and recharge and recharge that thing but every time I use it, I do feel a momentary touch of satisfaction. Each purchase is something I can do, you can do, we all can do, every day to help. And now with drugs being around just 40 cents a day, let me tell you, we can all save a life today. To date, (RED) partners and events have contributed over $140 million to the Global Fund - the recipient of (RED) monies.
And you can get involved in the political aspect of the debate and the decision by joining the ONE Campaign - the link is here. More than 2 million people have joined together at ONE to make their voices, and their political power, heard.
And I would encourage you to mark your calendar for May 24th when the documentary airs on HBO, it's the remarkable story of what collectively has happened and also powerfully shows the personal stories of those whose lives and children's lives have been saved by antiretroviral drugs.
If you'd like to see more before then, tonight you can tune into Facebook at 6:30 pm eastern when Bono, Iman, and many others will be walking the red carpet at the MoMA in New York, there will be a live stream of the event and you can even submit a question via Facebook as well. This is the way to (RED)'s Facebook page.
The name "The Lazarus Effect" of course is taken from the Bible where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In terms of HIV/AIDS programs, it refers to the remarkable power of the drugs to give people life. But as I saw today on (RED)'s Facebook wall, the great thing about what is happening now, is it's not just one person whose life we can help bring back, it's literally, millions. Join me in helping.
I am proud to have worked with (PRODUCT) RED since 2006.
Follow James Boyce on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamesboyce