Seeing (RED) for Joy and Hope

On World AIDS Day, Take Time to Reimagine the Possibilities

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Bruce Mau
Bruce Mau
A few years ago I was in the car with my wife – who is part Nigerian – listening to a man on the radio speaking about AIDS in Africa and complaining that no one was doing anything about it.

It struck us because what he was saying couldn't be further from the truth. At that very moment there were many people working on this problem in different ways. But their efforts were invisible.

Saying that no one is doing anything paralyzes positive action. When people think things are bad and getting worse, they tend to behave selfishly and draw up inside cocoons of their own making. But when they see that millions of people are taking action, they are inspired to join in and take part.

At the time, I was working on the project Massive Change, through which I discovered an astonishing global array of innovators and entrepreneurs for good. There were large-scale efforts by governments, nongovernmental organizations, foundations and celebrated individuals ,such as Bono; but there were also literally hundreds of local projects you've never heard about. For example, one of my own neighbors is spending $1 million a month to develop an AIDS vaccine, but you wouldn't know it as a result of little media attention.

Such extraordinary efforts are inspiring, spirited. Yet the myriad stories of people waking up every day committed to confronting this challenge go largely unheard.


Race is an issue. But for us in the Western world, there are also dimensions of distance, safety, protection and distraction. We live in a world where we don't think we're connected to the fate of millions of people in Africa – particularly now, when we have our own problems, and they are what we're focused on.

The man on the radio saw beyond that myopia, but he couldn't see that there are trails being blazed already.

Money is critical to combating the problem, not just because it buys medicine, supplies and direct help for those suffering, but also because it leverages massive change. And the $140 million already raised by the (RED) campaign has had a huge impact.

But equally important is increasing the visibility of what's being done, embedding this issue in the daily conversation going on in a world that is largely shielded from it.

We wanted to add our voices to the movement. That's one reason we got involved with the Dell (RED) project. By customizing your computer with images related to the (RED) challenge you can painlessly help the cause at no additional cost. It's easy. All you have to do is Choose (RED). Every dollar generated for the (RED) Global Fund goes to help fight AIDS in Africa.

But we need to do more. We can do more.

Facts save lives. And a few simple facts speak volumes: Globally, there are 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS; 22 million live in Africa. Put another way, although Africa accounts for only 10% of the world's population, 67% of all people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.

That's the bad news, and it usually gets most of the attention. In the media, and public perception, the general tone is negative, hopeless and focused on violence, corruption, abject poverty and the worst of human behavior. But there are other truths just as powerful.

The good news: Solutions exist, and better solutions are being sought every day. Just 40 cents a day for antiretroviral pills can bring someone back from the brink of death. It's called the Lazarus Effect.

Imagine that: 40 cents a day to save a life!

It's not magic, but it's more than simply medicine. It is a second chance for our brothers and sisters to get back on their feet, live their lives, contribute to their communities and help build a better future.

This year on World AIDS Day, let's take the time to reimagine the possibilities. Let us, with love, reintroduce the challenge and revoice our commitment to solving it. Let us remember that our friends and neighbors are already hard at work, and we can join them.

This Dec. 1 let us "See (RED)" Not in anger, but in joy; not in despair, but in hope. Not looking backward, but building a better future. Let us lift up our eyes and see the truth: One color unites us. Together we can make a difference.

People helping people: It's the real story of the 21st century.

Bruce Mau is the founder and chief creative officer of Bruce Mau Design, Chicago and Toronto, a member of the MDC Partners Network.
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