Washington Post Examines Criticisms of Product RED, "I Am African" Campaigns

Neither the "I Am African" campaign -- a project that aims to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Africa and directs contributions to Keep a Child Alive -- nor Product RED -- an initiative that aims to raise money for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by donating a portion of profits from a range of branded products -- have been "spared from cynicism," the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, the media, bloggers and the fashion industry itself have raised "suspicious questions" about the initiatives, including why Product RED companies do not donate 100% of the proceeds from designated products. Bobby Shriver, who along with Irish musician Bono created Product RED, said he wanted companies involved to have a "selfish, dollars-and-cents reason for revving up their formidable advertising and marketing machines." Product RED had to be a "main line" within the product brands, Shriver said, adding, "We wouldn't accept something peripheral. ... I don't want to be in the charity bin." The percentage each company donates to the Global Fund varies, but the commitments are for five years, the Post reports (Givhan, Washington Post, 11/3). According to Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem, Product RED has raised more than $10 million in the U.K. from February through September (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/16).

"I Am African"
According to the Post, blogs "have been especially unkind to the 'I Am African' campaign." The project -- created by model and cosmetic entrepreneur Iman -- is based on the idea that Africa is the "mother continent," the Post reports. In a series of black-and-white photographs, celebrities -- including musicians David Bowie, Seal and Alicia Keyes; actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Richard Gere; and model Heidi Klum -- wear face paint that is based on traditional tribal markers. "I picked [the celebrities]" because "I felt they didn't put their face with too many charities, and I wanted different age groups," Iman said. She said that it is possible that the celebrities' participation in the program could be used to elevate their own image, but added that if "celebrities can do something for Africa, why should I care what their agendas are?" (Washington Post, 11/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2006 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.