For most, the name Kenneth Cole is likely synonymous with practical, yet stylish, footwear, high quality leather goods, and office-ready basics. But Cole isn’t just the designer helping you build your young professional wardrobe, he’s also a man who has dedicated his life to HIV/AIDS awareness and activism. Since 1985, the designer has been publicly involved and outspoken about the health crisis, advocating for awareness, research, and protection, and he is often considered the first in the fashion industry to do so. In the past, he has donated a percentage of his proceeds to organizations such as Mentoring USA, amfAR and Rock the Vote, and this year at the International AIDS Society conference in Paris, with a focus on HIV Science, the mogul announced the launch of his new organization, the End AIDS Coalition (EAC).
According to a press release announcing the group’s formation, the EAC will be “a collaboration of leading AIDS experts, scientists, clinicians, policy-makers, faith leaders, businesses, activists and humanitarians working together to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”
Cole hopes the group will serve as, “a cross-sector, non-partisan movement that is fostering unprecedented collaboration by bringing together global AIDS leaders, including UNAIDS, the Gates Foundation and others, to break down information silos in order to harness every innovation, every dollar spent, every program and project implemented to accelerate the end of the elusive AIDS epidemic.”
PEOPLE also spoke with Cole to find out why he chose to launch his latest initiative at this particular moment in time.
Why is now a tipping point in this battle?
A lot of people think AIDS isn’t a problem anymore. There is so much progress to celebrate with more people on treatment than ever before. But some are facing resistance to drugs, and the emerging generation of at-risk youth is much larger than those before it. So even if current rates of infection remain constant, the sheer number of new infections among young people could double. If we don’t act now, and act together to get control, it may never be possible and the costs to both funding and human lives would be catastrophic.
How have you personally been affected by the AIDS crisis?
In the mid-’80s there was this dark looming cloud over all of us, especially in my industry. It was on everyone’s minds. But it was not on their lips. And I knew several people who I believed were HIV +, but wouldn’t disclose it, until it was no longer something they could hide. I had a unique opportunity to talk about what others weren’t.
This is an extraordinary announcement: What makes people confident such an important development is in our sights?
Last summer, UNAIDS launched their report calling for an end to AIDS by 2030 along with a set of specific targets. It’s ambitious but, I am very confident we’ll prevail. If we look at everyone’s goals and targets in one place, aggregate and disseminate that information, then the entire community will lift each-other up.
What do you think of Kenneth Cole’s latest initiative? Sound off below!
from PEOPLE.com http://people.com/style/kenneth-cole-end-aids-coalition/