Bono and Deborah Dugan, (RED) CEO, meet with HIV+ women and their HIV-negative children at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana.

- Ghana provided an amazingly different vantage point into West Africa than we saw from Liberia. While there’s still struggle in Ghana, the country is bursting with industry – buildings are going up, shops being opened, students graduating from school…it’s a country on the move and on the rise. Our visit to Liberia showed us the possibility for the future. Ghana is decidedly on its way – one of the biggest indicators being their success in reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Thanks to many factors, including coverage of ARVs for pregnant women, increased awareness campaigns, and support from the government, Ghana has had the largest decline in the rate of children acquiring HIV infection at 76% (850 new infections in 2012, down from 3,600 in 2009). It’s incredible, tangible, progress. 

(RED) has funded more than $54 million of Global Fund grants to Ghana alone, and it was there that we had the opportunity to meet with women whose lives in West Africa has been changed by these grants. There is Doris, an HIV+ mom of two healthy, happy sons. Thanks to the Global Fund, Doris gets medication, which allows her to stay healthy enough to work, to cook, and to play with her kids. There is Joyce, who is proudly championing the lifesaving power of ARV medication by taking her own survival story to the masses through a new movie she’s produced.  In a place where stigma can create a deadly silence, Joyce boldly tells her story of testing and treatment in the hope of encouraging others to take the same path.

Doris, holding her son, Samuel.

That night I was at dinner with our group. Bono is the real deal. I want to nickname him Bono-Fide. His energy is electrifying. His vast knowledge is intimidating. He can spin a wicked yarn and he is ridiculously funny. If only he could sing. But the quality I found the most compelling is his uncompromising, unyielding compassion. Rock stars don’t need to spend an enormously disproportionate amount of their time lobbying government both foreign and domestic, shaping policy and creating programs that slap blows directly in the face of the atrocities I have just detailed. As a female executive with two children, juggling all the complexities of a life lived fast in a modern world, I am quite certain he could run rings around me all day long. For those of you who know me, you understand.

Bono wants to talk about policy, about the future, not just the (RED) Auction we are doing in November, but what we are going to do next year and the year after to help fund the fight to move the world even closer to the goal of eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV. That reality is in our grasp and it’s profoundly exhilarating – but it’s abundantly clear that it’s going to be a huge global effort, and we must all actively play our parts.

Amy Todd Middlton meets with an HIV+ woman and her HIV-negative baby at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana.

I found myself seated with Dr. Christoph Benn from the Global Fund, David Lauren, Stefan Engblom and Olle Corneer from the world-renowned DJ duo, Dada Life, and Fiona Dawson, President of Mars in the UK. A more random group I could not have imagined, but Bono united us with his enthusiasm and vision.  The conversation was animated and quickly moving in excitable clips from Dada-ism to Contemporary Art and Basquiat to debt relief to brainstorming (RED) fund-raising and the need to create awareness around the issue to keep momentum in the fight. Ideas spewed forth, some immediately rejected, some explored and some to be explored. And some I know we will bring to life. For those of you know me, you also understand, you will be tasked with helping make an AIDS free generation a reality.