Monday 14 November 2011

New Campaign Aims to Increase Awareness of HIV and AIDS

by Natasha Broad

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of HIV and AIDS and, to commemorate this event and highlight the importance of ongoing research into the disease, a new campaign has been launched by fashion designer Kenneth Cole, in collaboration with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and amfAR.

Although HIV and AIDS are no longer seen by many people as being prominent within society, there are still over 34 million people worldwide living with the disease, with a new person becoming infected every 12 seconds. The new campaign hopes to highlight this by raising HIV and AIDS awareness in a new generation: the collaboration with MTV means that the advertisements will hopefully reach a younger audience, therefore highlighting the importance of safe sex in relation to HIV to a generation who may be unaware of the impact that the disease had in the 80s and 90s. Given that over half of new HIV infections worldwide are in young people aged 15 – 24, the importance of this campaign cannot be denied.

The discovery of HIV and AIDS came in the early 1980s, after a brief report was published about 5 men who had contracted a rare form of pneumonia. The report resonated with doctors all over America who had seen previously healthy men becoming infected with, and dying from, diseases that were normally associated with those with weakened immune systems. The condition became known as AIDS, and an epidemic spread across America, killing an entire generation of gay men. AIDS became known as a gay disease and, although many people who were not homosexual also contracted the illness, homophobia and fear meant that sufferers were ostracised by society and the disease was largely ignored by the government. This led to the creation of activist groups such as act up, which offered support to those living with the disease and called for direct government action to fight the epidemic.

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole has been involved with AIDS awareness since 1986, when he launched his first awareness campaign. The Kenneth Cole Foundation, Awearness, has now collaborated with MTV to launch a campaign entitled ‘Come Together’, which is endorsed by celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Ke$ha, and Estelle. For the 30 year landmark, Cole has redesigned the well known AIDS ribbon as a double loop, and MTV advertisements show celebrities talking to the audience about their ribbons using innuendos such as ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ and ‘It’s not about your performance.’ Combined with a social media presence on Facebook, the campaign is clearly aimed at a younger audience, and should raise awareness of a disease which is still prominent throughout the world and, for the most part, does not receive the attention or research that it deserves.

All proceeds from sales of both the double ribbon and any other items from Cole’s Awearness range will go directly to the Kenneth Cole Foundation. In the UK, the ribbon is available from House of Fraser stores. 

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