South Africa: Beyond Lip Service - the Lipstick That Literally Saved Lives

Banner image promoting the SA AIDS Conference.

It's easy to be cynical about lipstick and the sometimes-hard-hitting marketing tactics of cosmetic companies. However, over the last quarter century, MAC's VIVA GLAM campaign has raised $500-million towards the fight against HIV and AIDS. That's nothing to sneer at.

Living in the partially woke "safe spaces" of 2019, it's easy to forget how radically different the world was 25 years ago, in 1994, especially when it comes to LGBTQ rights, HIV/AIDS treatment and stigma among all sexual orientations and gender identities. Despite this, progress around these issues is yet to reach many and the struggle continues.

But 1994 was also the year MAC cosmetics, founded by two gay men in 1985, embarked on its most public campaign in the fight against HIV/Aids and stigma. The company launched the VIVA GLAM campaign with spokesperson and ambassador, the celebrated drag queen RuPaul. All of the proceeds from the VIVA GLAM product line went toward the funding of HIV/AIDS projects globally.

Back then, HIV diagnosis still carried a terrible stigma and the US, where the campaign was launched by the Canadian-born New York-based company, was one where HIV and AIDS were...

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