Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, which is observed every year on December 1 to support global efforts to eradicate the disease and commemorates the 32.7 million people who have died since the AIDS pandemic began. It also reminds us that 38 million people live with HIV worldwide, only 25 million of whom are actively in treatment.
At Levi Strauss & Co., we have always recognized that HIV/AIDS is more than just a medical condition. In 1982, Bob Haas and other leaders stood in solidarity with concerned employees and passed out informational leaflets at the Plaza. From then on, LS&Co. has shown an unwavering commitment to confronting the injustices that fuel the epidemic: racism, homophobia and transphobia, gender inequality, poverty, stigma and discrimination. Since 1983, we’ve invested $78 million into frontline HIV/AIDS organizations in the United States and more than 40 countries around the world.
Important progress has been made in the past decade, and there has been a 23% decline in new HIV infections and 37% decline in the death rate in 2019 vs. 2010. “For the first time in nearly four decades, there is a real possibility to create an AIDS-free generation,” said Stanley Wong, Senior Program Manager for the Levi Strauss Foundation (LSF) and HIV/AIDS Specialist who leads LSF’s response to all global HIV/AIDS grantmaking.
However, the fight is far from over. Far too many are still dying from AIDS-related illnesses. People living with HIV still suffer from stigma and discrimination. Many people have not been tested, do not know they are living with HIV and don’t have access to adequate medicine and health care. “Public indifference, politics and the uneven and unequal distribution and availability of resources are significant obstacles,” said Stanley.
That’s why LSF’s focus is on supporting underserved people and marginalized communities to create more effective advocacy and organization. That support is particularly crucial this year, as the world faces not one but two global pandemics. COVID-19 has heightened the level of emergency in the global HIV/AIDS response. We risk losing hard-earned gains in the HIV/AIDS response as the world battles two pandemics. “HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 share the devastating characteristic of disproportionately affecting those most marginalized in society — enabled by structural racism, stigma, discrimination and unequal access to health care,” said Stanley.
The long-term success of eradicating these deadly diseases depends on organizations and individuals understanding the interconnection and supporting the fight to end both.
Teams and employees around the world this week are continuing our long legacy of supporting this fight by raising awareness around HIV/AIDS and supporting organizations combatting the disease.
In AMA, LSF is continuing to work with International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) to empower individuals and communities affected by HIV/AIDS to mobilize for effective advocacy. In India, ITPC’s tireless activism ensures that people living with HIV have improved access to life-saving medication.
In Europe, employees are coming together for World AIDs Day through a variety of virtual activations across the region. Teams are joining our longstanding Belgium partner, Plateforme Prevention Sida, in their outreach social media campaign to stay mobilized in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In the Milano office, employees will be invited to watch (at home) the movie Dallas Buyers Club to learn more about HIV/AIDS. And teams in Germany are partnering with Youth Against AIDS to use the power of the Levi’s® brand to amplify the association’s message: “Do what you want. Do it with love, respect and condoms.”
In the U.S., retail and corporate teams are coming together with multiple activations to honor World AIDS Day. This year, teams are supporting two HIV/AIDS service organizations Sero Project and PRC (Positive Resource Center) with employees through a virtual display highlighting the organizations work. Our AIDS Action Group is also hosting a virtual raffle of custom-designed Trucker jackets from collections created by employees in partnership with our employee resource groups, with proceeds going to Sero Project and PRC.
Additionally, this year LS&Co. is proud to join the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s #workingpositively campaign in the U.S. and commits to being visible role models in our support for employees living with HIV.
We’re making progress as a global community in fighting this disease, and LS&Co. remains committed to this fight until there’s a cure and we get to an AIDS-free generation.