This time of year, I’m often asked about my beauty secrets for the holidays. My advice is is simply this: giving is beautiful. And the first two days of December are a perfect time to start.
World AIDS Day -- on December 1 –- commemorates the 35 million people we've lost to the disease, and serves as a call for continued action toward an AIDS-free generation. It is day to recognize the millions of researchers, caregivers and champions devoted to ending this epidemic.
December 2nd is Giving Tuesday, which I think has a lovely symmetry to World AIDS Day. It is a time to celebrate and encourage acts of giving and volunteering that make the world a better place. This year, over 18,000 non-profit organizations across the spectrum of social causes, including thousands dedicated to HIV and women and children’s health services, will be leading campaigns and events to engage supporters during the holiday season and beyond.
Earlier this year I joined one such initiative. The Born Free campaign directs the proceeds from specially designed fashions by top female designers to accelerate and expand HIV testing and treatment for mothers in the countries in Africa most affected by AIDS.
Supported by Johnson & Johnson, Chevron and other major private sector donors, this initiative is investing in local African talent to drive changes in their health systems in order to eliminate mother to child HIV transmission by the end of 2015.
As part of this campaign, I had the opportunity to meet five young HIV+ mothers in South Africa. Against the most difficult odds, these women took every chance they had to learn about the best care for themselves and their babies. Together they created a peer group that supports and encourages other women in their community. Their incredible spirit of giving is helping connect more mothers to HIV testing, counseling and care.
Integrated health services that emphasize skilled care during the prenatal, childbirth and postpartum periods, including HIV screening and treatment, are vital to saving more mothers and newborns. At my foundation, the Liya Kebede Foundation, we are committed to minimizing the barriers pregnant women in developing countries face to obtain this integrated care.
In Ethiopia, we partner with doctors to equip and train medical teams at a maternity center south of the capital, where more then 3,000 pregnant women have consented to HIV screening over the past two years. An increasing number of women are getting the information and support they need, and the numbers testing positive for HIV are declining significantly.
We have the knowledge and the tools to reach every mother so that she and the next generation can be safe, healthy and HIV-free. It is possible when we take action together.
So as the holidays approach and you’re thinking about how to celebrate with style, try to put giving first and see just how beautiful it can be.