Each month, we highlight a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This month we speak with model Christy Turlington about her work on behalf of (Product) RED, which teams up with companies to create (Product) RED branded products. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the products goes to the Global Fund. The (RED) money specifically goes to help women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Q: Can you discuss (Product) Red and your role with it?
A: I first learned about DATA One (the merged charities DATA – Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa — and One: The Campaign to Make Poverty History) and (RED) through Bono, who’s an old friend of mine, and (DATA Chairman) Bobby Shriver and the rest of the team. … I joined One right away as just an interested person and then, when they were about to launch in the U.S., Bono called and asked if I would participate by being in the initial ad campaign for the GAP. ... I said, ‘Absolutely … whatever I need to do.’ So I was in that campaign and from that point got even more interested and more excited about what they were doing and participated in their launch on ‘Oprah’ in the fall. … I’ve been a consumer as well, because I’ve bought a lot of (RED) products. I just really believe in the concept of creating something that involves the private sector in the way that Product (RED) does and that has sustainability. … That to me is what’s so brilliant about (RED) and sets it apart from other ideas: It really is a business model.
Q: Why do you think people should support this cause?
A: Because it easy, because it takes very little to go such a long way. It’s an epidemic that does involve us — you know the numbers are still growing in our country as well. But we have the means for so much more than the people in Africa do. And these products are things that we as American consumers we buy anyway, so why not buy the ones that happen to help people that can’t help themselves quite yet.
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Q: What is your favorite thing about being affiliated with this cause?
A: It kind of puts together various aspects of my life in that I’ve been a model for twenty some years and I’ve sold a lot of products, products that I generally stand behind and believe in. But in this case, these products do so much more than make people feel good, and look good. … Also as a mother this issue has really hit me hard in the sense that you know mothers and children are being most affected. It is the women who are getting sick and then giving birth to children and then passing it on in that way. Now, with this (RED) money, we’re able to actually get drugs for people, free, … to keep moms alive for their children and to keep their children alive to enjoy a long life.
Q: Can you describe a moment where you first felt like you had personally made a difference in someone’s life through this cause?
A: I was is Swaziland with (RED) in May and I guess even though I knew … that we had raised $50 million raised in the global fund and made a huge impact in a relatively short period of time, it was when I first started to meet the people that were being helped. … I met a young mother, Lulu, who has a 2-year-old little girl – my daughter is not that much older -- and she was diagnosed with AIDS while pregnant and then was able to take (antiretroviral drugs) and give them to her daughter. … And so to meet her, healthy, happy, vibrant! She now works as volunteer as a counselor and so she’s able to give advice to other mothers who are in her situation, who are teens who have recently found out that they’re HIV positive, and to show that there is another side, there is a positive face, there is life after diagnosis. … She also has her own little community service project where she educates the community about AIDS and tries to get them to go to clinics, to get that diagnosis done. … Women also are making products and they’re selling to anyone who will buy them … doing on a small scale what (RED) is trying to do on an international scale. That was really great!
Q: This cause has made it easy for the average person to contribute by making purchases of everyday products like T-shirts and shoes donate portion of the proceeds to the fund. How do you think this has contributed to the fund’s success and the popularity of (Product) RED as an organization?
A: I think most people really do have an instinct to be generous and to help others, but this is one of the first times that that so many people — so many different types of people — are able to participate and feel that they’re doing something. And they can wear something with pride. … So many young girls ask me ‘how can I get involved with (Product) RED, how can I help?’ and since it isn’t a charity per se, you just continue to purchase products that you love and … then it becomes kind of a contagious thing where you want to share and want to spread the word.
Q: If you could say one thing about keeping up awareness of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, what would it be?
A: AIDS is … a preventable disease and it’s a treatable disease. In certain parts of the world now it costs just 40 cents a day to buy the two pills that someone needs to needs to keep someone alive. … I think anyone can handle that idea of 40 cents a day and that (RED) money is going to the communities, it’s doing the work … because of our efforts and our combined community effort internationally.
Interviewed by Chelsea Connor, NBC News
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