Fashion designer and passionate AIDS advocate Kenneth Cole was named an international goodwill ambassador of the UN’s joint HIV/AIDS program (UNAIDS) by Executive Director Michel Sidibe. Cole also serves as the Chair of the The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).
The appointment came the evening before the UN General Assembly’s meeting to end AIDS.
“We are entering a crucial phase of the response to HIV and I know that Kenneth can make a significant and powerful contribution towards our shared vision of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” Sidibe said in a press conference announcing the appointment. “His commitment, compassion and resolve will magnify our efforts to include everyone and to ensure that no one is left behind.”
As the goodwill ambassador, Cole will work to inspire the global community by advocating for an inclusive response to the AIDS epidemic. The epidemic began in the 1980s and spread like the plague. The disease has spread across the world and is now prominent in developing countries with little access sex education and health care.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, 71 million people have been infected with HIV/AIDS and nearly 34 million people have died from the disease. The majority of those infected are living in low- to middle-income countries, particularly in Africa.
By the end of 2014, there were 36.9 people living with AIDS, including 220,000 children. Fortunately, between 2000 and 2015, new HIV infections fell by 35 percent and AIDS-related deaths fell by 24 percent as a result of international efforts that led to the achievement of the HIV targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for HIV/AIDS. But scientists and doctors have found ways to neutralize the symptoms and prevent it from spreading. The main problem is expanding the scope of these therapies, especially in the developing world.
“I am confident that if people are put at the centre of the AIDS response we can realize one of this century’s greatest humanitarian achievements – the end of the AIDS epidemic,” said Cole. “I am honored by this appointment as a UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador.”
He said he hopes to intensify efforts and end the epidemic for people everywhere in his new role.
Cole has been advocating on behalf of those infected for 30 years now. He began speaking out against AIDS by enlisting a group of supermodels for a public service advertisement encouraging AIDS research. He was also instrumental in the amfAR campaign Countdown for a Cure.
In addition to the appointment of Kenneth Cole, the UN had some exciting news about the current state of HIV/AIDS. Thailand became the first Asian country to have a zero mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, as well as the first country to ensure an AIDS-free generation. Armenia, Belarus and the Republic of Moldova also have a zero mother-to-child transmission rate now.
World Health Organization Director Margaret Chan said, “This is a tremendous achievement — a clear signal that the world is on the way to an AIDS-free generation.”