Inspi(RED) Holiday Sales Raise Funds to Fight AIDS

The seven-week-old initiative known as (RED), a fundraising campaign to fight AIDS globally, with a focus on Africa, is off to a good start in the United States and is expected to raise tens of millions of dollars from Christmas sales, the Boston Globe reports.

Launched by Bono and Kennedy family member Bobby Shriver, the project involves six global manufacturers who have designed special (RED)-branded items, mostly in shades of red (the parentheses symbolize people embracing a cause). Items included in the campaign include Apple's iPod Nano, Motorola's Motorazr phone, a range of Giorgio Armani clothes and accessories, four types of Converse sneakers, and more than a dozen items sold by the Gap. The unusual philanthropic effort has moved beyond support for a cause, however, to providing trendy stocking stuffers to socially conscious individuals.

Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which will receive roughly half the profits from sales of (RED) items, said his organization received $15 million in campaign proceeds earlier this year, mainly from sales in England and France. But he expects that to increase significantly with the rollout of the campaign in the United States. "The big income rush will come through this Christmas shopping season," said Feachem. "We may be over the $100 million mark by the end of Christmas."

While such estimates may be optimistic, (RED) officials have said that funds collected in the United States to date are enough to pay for putting 45,000 AIDS patients on life-extending antiretroviral treatment for a year.

And even though some (RED)-branded products have sold out, American consumers continue to respond enthusiastically. "Most people buy [the Sprint Motorazr] because it's cool-looking," said salesman Fred Neequaye, a Ghanaian native who moved to Washington, D.C., a decade ago. "But they also know it's for a good cause. Before they come in, everyone seems to know about (RED)."

John Donnelly. "(RED)-Hot This Season." Boston Globe 12/08/2006.