The former president noted how treatment of the virus had radically improved in recent years during a taped video message broadcast as part of host Jimmy Kimmel’s third annual (RED) Shopathon.
It aired ahead of World AIDS Day 2017, which falls on Friday, and raised money for the (RED) charity. Co-founded by U2 singer Bono, the organization aims to “harness the power of people and companies” to help fight the virus.
“I know we live in a time when cable news and our Twitter feeds can make it feel like cynicism is everywhere,” said Obama. “But when it comes to the fight against HIV/AIDS there is some genuinely good news to share.”
More than half of all people living with the virus were now on life-saving medication and AIDS-related deaths had been cut in half since their peak, he said. It wasn’t down to “mysterious forces or chance” but the “countless people working for years” who “chose to make this progress,” he added.
“When we reject cynicism and pessimism in favor of a relentless optimism that says ‘however long it takes, however lonely the fight,’ each of us can make a difference. That’s what I believe,” Obama concluded.
Later in the message, Obama struck a goofier tone as he joked that people who contributed to the cause could pilot Air Force One for a day, or gain a glance at classified alien files. That was before someone off-screen reminded him that he, of course, couldn’t offer such an incentive any more.
Bono, who founded the (RED) charity with Bobby Shriver in 2006, also joined Kimmel on the show:
Bono vowed to break a years-old pact for a better cause:
Actress Kristen Bell joined Kimmel for some holiday shopping:
Sean Diddy Combs asked people to change their names:
Bono joined Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and actor Sean Penn for this performance:
And this star-studded supergroup helped end the show: