The Fight Against AIDS Isn't a Sprint — It's a Marathon

Many marathon runners will agree: mile 22 is the hardest. At the beginning of the race, adrenaline powers the body. The excitement and fear of the daunting challenge ahead provide the fuel the competitors need to forge ahead. When they reach the middle of the race, patience becomes a virtue. If the runners sprint too fast, they will burn out. However, the ultimate goal is to finish the race as fast as possible. The idea of crossing that finish line provides the enticement to push oneself to the limit. It is in mile 22 when the small hills seem like mountains, runners’ feet feel like anvils, and intense fatigue starts to set in. As we commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, we find ourselves in mile 22 of the marathon race to eliminate AIDS.

Ruth and Abraham are both HIV+ and lost loved ones to AIDS before meeting at TEMA Hospital, a (RED)-funded Global Fund programs in Ghana. Their doctor introduced them, and it was love at first sight. Today, Abraham and Ruth are alive and healthy, and they have four HIV-free children.

In 2018, we — as a society — have a choice to make. Over the past nearly 15 years, brilliant organizations like The Global Fund and PEPFAR have been running the marathon effort that is fighting to end AIDS. They’ve played pivotal roles in passing so many milestones. We’ve cut the number of deaths from AIDS in half, and today, 22 million people are receiving life-saving treatment. That’s 22 million lives that would otherwise be lost. It’s an enormous achievement, largely thanks to the sustained efforts of governments, NGOs, businesses and people.

Alas, the world is exhausted. It feels like we’re running a myriad of issue-based marathons all at once, and our collective legs and hearts are giving out. Still, the only opponent standing in our way is our short memory — and our even shorter attention span. Knowing the progress we’ve made, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions about moving forward:

With the end of AIDS now within the world’s grasp, who would choose to stop the advances in their tracks? To let the extraordinary gains roll back and let lives saved become lives lost? Who would knowingly deny a generation the chance to be free of this preventable, treatable disease? Is that who we are? Would we be able to live with ourselves?

That’s the precipice the world stands upon today. As funding for the fight comes under increasing threat, and people focus on the domestic issues being faced around the world, to remove investment is akin to walking away with only one mile left. As (RED)’s cofounder Bono recently said, “We could be at the dumbest moment ever, which is where we’re almost at the moon and we turn back.” To help fuel forward momentum around World AIDS Day this year, (RED) and its partners are giving people everywhere multiple ways to make your holiday shopping choices count toward this urgent-as-ever fight. Visit to shop for gifts — including the brand-new (RED) iPhone XR, MCM apparel & accessories, Durex condoms, EOS cosmetics, and a special Echo (RED) edition. And as you shop, do it with the knowledge that for every dollar you spend at, Bank of America will donate 20 cents, up to $1.5 million.

With the end of AIDS in sight, the fight is in a perilous situation — and every little push and extra penny toward the finish line helps.

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