This article is from a special (RED) edition of The Independent to mark World Aids Day

RED campaign offers thousands of Aids sufferers the 'Lazarus effect'

When Bono visited the paediatric ward of the central hospital in Kigali last May, eight-year-old Denyse Mushimiyimana was almost comatose. Newly diagnosed with HIV, her tiny skeletal frame lay motionless on her bed while her distraught father, who is also infected, sat at her bedside. She didn't utter a word. Three months later, Denyse was back at her Rwandan school in a neatly pressed uniform, laughing and skipping as usual with her friends. Her parents are naturally delighted.

Denyse is an example of the Lazarus effect of antiretroviral therapy. "Aids is no longer a death sentence," Bono said. "Just two pills a day will bring someone who is at death's door back to full health, back to full life. Doctors call it 'the Lazarus effect'. I've seen it myself and I have to say that it's nothing short of a miracle. These pills are available at any corner drugstore. They cost less than a dollar a day, but the poorest people in Africa earn less than a dollar a day. They can't afford them, and so they die. It's unnecessary. It's insane."

In view of this, last March, Bono and the philanthropist Bobby Shriver launched a campaign called RED to allow big businesses and customers to contribute to the fight against HIV and Aids. So far, six companies have joined up - Amex, Apple, Armani, Gap, Converse and Motorola - and brought out RED products.

A percentage of sales is donated to the Global Fund, an independent organisation set up in 2002 to fight Aids, TB and malaria. Motorola, for example, donates £10 for every RED phone bought, as well as 5 per cent of the purchaser's monthly bill. Gap and Armani donate 50 per cent of the profit from their RED collections.

Donations from RED products are specifically used to combat Aids in Africa. Just over $10m (£5.1m) has been raised so far. "The RED campaign is one of the most exciting and hopeful things that has happened in the five years that the Global Fund has existed," said Professor Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund. "Through it major corporations and ordinary men and women all over the world are engaging positively and constructively in the fight again HIV/Aids in Africa."

About $6m has gone to Rwanda and $4m to Swaziland to support programmes particularly aimed at women and children. In Rwanda it is being used to increase testing and the availability of treatment. Antiretroviral therapy now costs about $140 per person per year, compared with $10,000 in 2000. The dramatic reduction in cost is a result of the Global Fund buying huge amounts of drugs for people too poor to buy them, as well as the Clinton Foundation's price negotiations with the Indian drug manufacturers.

Not only are drugs cheaper, they are much easier to take. Five years ago, patients had to take numerous different pills at varying stages of the day. Treatment now is two pills a day. Rwanda's compliance rate - the ability of patients to take medicine properly - is now higher than in the UK or US.

"The RED money is helping roll out this revolution in Rwanda, scaling up this affordable and feasible treatment," Professor Feachem said. "What that does is give decades of life to people who would otherwise die quickly. The so-called Lazarus effect is when you see a man, woman or a child, who is within weeks or days of death, and who looks like a walking skeleton, and you put them on antiretroviral therapy and they regain their health in a most amazing way. Four or six weeks later there is already a big difference. After three months you see a very big difference: the child is back in school and the parent is a parent again and back at work."

Much of the money donated to Swaziland will be spent on orphans. The country has the world's highest HIV/Aids rate. Among those aged 15 to 50, it is 33 per cent, and for women aged 25 to 30, the figure is over 50 per cent. One of the impacts of this "viral genocide" is a huge numbers of orphans, about 70,000 in a population of one million.

Already 37,000 orphans are receiving food and assistance to attend school, supported by the Global Fund. Instead of children having to go to orphanages, 277 KaGogo (meaning granny) centres have been set up. Grandmothers are given financial support to feed orphans and provide schooling. As children stay in their community they are at less risk of being abused.

The RED money is also being used to expand testing and treatment. Dr Derek von Wissell, director of NERCHA, Swaziland's statutory HIV and Aids programme, said the money had had a huge effect. In 2001 the government spent about one million rand (£75,000) on HIV and Aids. This year it is hoping to spend about 150 million, 110 million of it from the Global Fund. "Free treatment only started being available in 2003. Before that people had to pay for it privately. We now have between 15,000 and 16,000 patients," he said. "I personally know a large number of people who were virtually dying who are back at work, completely functional and looking after their families."

Tembi Nkambule, 32, is one whose life has been drastically improved by medication.

The mother-of-three, who lives in Manzini, about 20 miles from the capital Mbabane, said: "It has made so much difference for me. I'm always fine and sometimes I even forget that I have HIV. I feel so well I'm sure I still have more years to live."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there