Why Apple's (RED) campaign is so important

I cannot ignore the struggle against AIDS

What disease infects 650 new children daily and costs just 40 cents a day to treat? The answer is AIDS, and with its latest PRODUCT (RED) campaign, Apple hopes to make a difference.

Personal plea

I cannot ignore the struggle against AIDS.

My 10-year-old cousin was one of a handful of haemophiliac children killed by AIDS when it first hit the UK. He was infected by a blood transfusion received at a time when the powers that be continued to insist that the disease was some kind of plague targeting people because of their sexuality. That was a lie, of course, and I will never forgive the then-government or media for the bigoted prejudice they showed while my young cousin lost his fight for life.

Like many of the big issues: the environment, sexual and racial equality, gender diversity, free speech or the abolition of prejudice on the basis of color or creed, AIDS is a challenge we share.

Apple has been working with Bono's PRODUCT (RED) charity for years, raising $75 million toward the Global Fund to fight the disease. In the last eight years, (RED) and its partners have generated over $275 million toward the fund. Businesses had contributed just $5 million to the Global Fund before (RED) was created, while the public sector had given over $5 billion.

Apple's PRODUCT (RED) offer

Apple announced three new (RED) promotions this morning:

On Black Friday this week, Apple will give buyers of select Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod, Apple TV, Beats) a (RED) iTunes Gift Card and will donate to the Global Fund to support the fight against the disease.

Apple will donate a portion of every sale made at its online and retail stores on December 1, (World AIDS Day and Cyber Monday) to the campaign.

And Apple is working with 25 App Store developers to add special limited-edition PRODUCT RED features to apps, and to donate cash from app sales to the campaign in a two-week promotion.

Whitewash, or necessity?

PRODUCT (RED) critics complain the scheme only provides corporations with a way to pretend to be compassionate or caring. Critics regard this as a kind of whitewash designed to mask the sociopathic tendencies of the world's biggest corporations. They argue (for example) that if the big multinationals paid local taxes at the same level as local businesses, then it is possible nations would be more able to help themselves without the charity.

But do we enjoy the luxury to argue over these points while in the real world real people are suffering the consequences of a disease that is preventable, treatable and that has killed over 30 million people?

Critical moment

Even today, 50% of the 650 children born each day with HIV will die before their second birthday if they don't receive treatment that costs only 40 cents each day.

It should be noted that Apple's new (RED) initiative comes at a critical moment. More people were added to treatment programs last year than were newly infected with AIDS. If this trajectory is maintained there's a chance the disease can be controlled and perhaps eventually eradicated. For just 40 cents per person, per day.

Over half of the 12.9 million people receiving treatment are getting it with support from the Global Fund (RED) supports. In 2002, only 300,000 people had access to such treatment.

You don't have to buy a Product Red product if you care about this matter. You can contribute to the Global Fund directly, or if you don't care to do that you may find other ways to help via Save The Children or the Terence Higgins Trust.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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