Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cool Finds, Good Cause. Shopping For HIV Awareness.

Fifty dollars for a pair of (RED) Chuck Taylors, $30 for vintage denim jeans worn to perfect elasticity, $10 spent on a red triple nylon cord ID bracelet with an engraving of an iconic red ribbon, and the total portion spent going to AIDS/ HIV awareness makes it all priceless.  The fashion industry has been a long time beacon of inspiration, hope, and bold change throughout the world.  Within the past decade the fashion industry has used its power to start making a difference with a cause – to spread awareness on the AIDS/ HIV epidemic.  Organizations and campaigns such as the popular (RED) campaign, Housing Works, Until There is a Cure, and Designers Against AIDS are a few that have taken a stand against the fight against AIDS, one t-shirt and bracelet at a time.

“In America we ignore HIV/AIDS problem and we need to erase the stigma and restart the conversation.  By wearing our bracelets you’re saying this still matters,” said Nora Hanna, Executive Director of the Until There’s A Cure organization.  Until There is a Cure is a organization that started in 1993 and was the first to use bracelets to raise awareness for a cause.  Through selling these bracelets they have been able to fund research and education towards the cause of finding a cure.  Hanna said that the organization was able to “reinvest 22 million dollars back into the cause”, which is 85 percent of the total proceeds.  “When you buys a bracelet, what you're doing is making sure the next generation is born free of HIV,” said Hanna.

Housing Works, another organization dedicated to helping with the plight of the homeless and people diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS, uses vintage fashion and furniture to help support those who have been abandoned due to being infected with the virus.  After 22 years in business they have created twelve spacious and trendy thrift stores /coffee shops set up all around New York City; contributing 100 percent of their funds in support for their community healthcare centers, providing homes for the homeless, and job rehabilitation.  With a wide selection of affordable yet trendy clothes, books, and furniture; buying from this store is not just buying for a cause, but also buying in style.

“Recycling is very much in vogue, thrift is the ultimate recycle, your taking old pieces of furniture home and giving it new life; and that's what we seek to do with people, we seek to bring people back to life, by offering them our resources. So by buying our products, your helping give people a second chance on life,” said President and Co-founder of Housing Works Charles King.

According to Kin, buying products from the organization’s thrift stores and coffee shops, helps by keeping the organizations many programs running.  Programs as in health home care, AIDS adult day health care, primary care, mental health services, housing for people with chemical dependency, job opportunities, and legal services.  Housing Works was created in response to his and the other founders role in the organization ACT UP.  Being apart of the ACT UP housing committee, they were concerned with the housing of homeless diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS and the government's lack of involvement for these people.

“We have found in the past, there is a sort of cynicism and lack of knowledge among youth, especially those that were not born yet or were too young when AIDS first broke out.  AIDS is rarely talked about now and is seen as something that can be managed or even scarier as something that is very distant to their existence,” said Ninette Murk, founder and creative director of Designers Against AIDS. “To overcome these obstacles what we thought we would do is present the message through things people are genuinely interested in, so that is why we chose to marry fashion, celebrities and the safe sex message.  By receiving the message through their idols and role models, instead of preaching and other doom-like ways, we hope this message strikes a chord with them and stays with them”.

Designers Against AIDS (DAA) is an international organization that specifically targets spreading awareness of AIDS/ HIV to the youth of the world.   DAA promotes awareness by using international celebrity support and using designers to change the stigmas behind the virus.  The DAA collaborates with many international designers, one of its most recent collaborations was with H&M’s Fashions Fight on AIDS.  H&M Fashion Fight on AIDS collection uses tribal patterns and fun colors to appeal to a young audience, and even more appealing is that 50% of proceeds of the collection goes to organizations supporting the HIV/AIDS movement.

“Our core activities mostly revolve around raising awareness among youth and educating volunteers from around the world about how to make fun and effective campaigns to use back in their own countries. This is big job and we work in diverse ways to keep the message fresh and relevant, that is one of our signature traits,” said Murk.

Safe Sax co-founder Chris Wilkerson said his company supports not only HIV/AIDS awareness but also an openness in discussion of all things usually quieted in society, which is exemplified through the transparency of their fashionable bag designs.  Safe Sax bags are transparent bags, coming in all types of designs, on of which including bags with usable condoms lined on the sides.

“The idea is really about being open, and about what you have open and transparent for everyone to see,” said Wilkerson.

One of the most popular campaigns is (RED).  (RED) partners with brands such as Converse, Apple, and Starbucks to help spread awareness by giving part of their (RED) products proceeds to HIV/AIDS relief organizations.  According to the (RED) campaign’s website, close to 190 million dollars was raised by the purchase of (RED) products and was given to the Global Fund to help eliminate the virus in countries like Ghana, Rwanda, and South Africa.  It's important to see that people can make the biggest difference in the smallest ways; simply by going out out and buying even a cup of coffee from Starbucks can save a person's life. 

For me personally, I think that by going out and buying these products we can truly make the world of a difference.  Consider where you spend your $20 dollars before you purchase the next pair of kicks, t-shirt or rubber bracelet.  Even in doing so, that’s only the monetary contribution.   We as young people should keep the conversation going, not ignore the subject, and understand why wear these cloths, in order to make the ultimate fight for the cause.

Check out the campaigns and where to buy here:

--Kyle Sweet
GET DOWN Youth Blogger

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