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Celebrities Go All Out to Honor World AIDS Day

Sharon Stone, Scarlett Johansson, Bono, and others are raising money and awareness to fight the spread of AIDS and HIV.

Screenshot of Scarlett Johansson from the (RED) fundraising jingle video

To the international organizations and celebrities involved in the 30-year battle against AIDS, it must seem as if the problems created by the disease shift shapes as often as the virus.


Human rights organizations—marking World AIDS Day (December 1) with the help of a small army of celebrities—called for fast action to end the disease by 2030, while warning post-millennials that AIDS is far from over.

According to the United Nations, new HIV infections have fallen by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 42 percent since the peak in 2004—but there is still “an unacceptably high number” of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths occurring each year. In 2014, 2 million people were newly infected with HIV and 1.2 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

“To break the epidemic and prevent it from rebounding, we must act on all fronts,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement for World AIDS Day. “We need to more than double the number of people on life-changing treatment to reach all 37 million of those living with HIV. We need to provide adolescent girls and young women with access to education and real options to protect themselves from HIV. And we need to provide key populations with full access to services delivered with dignity and respect.”

The United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO), calling the HIV pandemic “one of the most critical workplace issues of our time,” highlighted the need to protect the labor rights of people living with or affected by the virus.

In an ILO video released Tuesday, actress Sharon Stone tells the story of a woman named Oleysa, who was forced to resign from her job as a cafeteria worker after patrons called her out publicly for being HIV positive. Stone’s message: “End discrimination. People living with HIV need jobs, just like everybody else.”

“Stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS threatens fundamental rights at work, undermining opportunities for people to obtain decent work and sustainable employment,” the ILO says on its site.

U2 frontman Bono—an early activist in fighting the spread of the disease—believes this year’s World AIDS Day is more critical than ever. “We can feel people going, ‘Oh yeah, that AIDS thing is done now,’ and we’re like, ‘No! It’s not!,” Bono said in an interview with the Associated Press.

As a result, Bono redoubled his public awareness efforts on the disease, with events on two coasts on World AIDS Day.

Bono! Image copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org) swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger

With the 10-year-anniversary of his (RED) organization as a hook, the singer launched an effort to raffle off “once-in-a-lifetime experiences.” The experiences include meeting George Clooney and “getting complimented by him for 45 seconds,” a walk on the red carpet with Meryl Streep, and a ride through Central Park with Bono, who was famously injured during a bike accident in the park last year. Those seeking to qualify for the raffle must donate at least $10, via Omaze.com/RED, to the fight against AIDS.

To boost Bono’s efforts, Jimmy Kimmel agreed to dedicate his December 1 late-night show to the (RED) campaign, with Olivia Wilde joining him in Los Angeles as cohost of a (SHOPATHON), featuring Tom Brady and Shaquille O’Neal. (Brady is offering one donor a private lesson on how to pass a football, while O’Neal has agreed to take a photo with a winner for their upcoming holiday card.)

In New York, Bono organized a Carnegie Hall musical event and rally with Vice President Joe Biden, the Edge, Trevor Noah, Miley Cyrus, and others to “celebrate the possible.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to match every dollar raised by (RED)—up to $20 million. And Scarlett Johansson recorded a “holiday jingle” that also features Barry Manilow and Kimmel to promote the organization’s star-studded shopathon.

Among the “one-in-a-lifetime experiences” up for grabs on Omaze.com: Get “glammed up” with Kim Kardashian; have your portrait painted by James Franco; attend a University of Texas at Austin football game with alum Matthew McConaughey; join R&B singer The Weeknd backstage at his sold-out Miami show; spend a day of “aromatherapy and legal relaxation” with Snoop Dogg at his “Merry Jane Wellness Retreat” in Colorado; hang out with Matt Damon in the green room at Jimmy Kimmel Live; and announce the No. 1 song with Ryan Seacrest on his American Top 40 radio show.

Snoop Dogg. Image by Bollywood Hungama (formerly known as IndiaFM) via Wikimedia Commons

“Even though red is the color of emergency, there’s a sort of optimism about the whole campaign and a kind of defiant humor,” Bono told AP. “We have always had that, but the (SHOPATHON) will really take it to another new level.”

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