Hairdressers Against AIDS, a program sponsored by the L’Oreal Foundation and UNESCO, made its U.S. debut yesterday with a kickoff event at the United Nations building in New York City. More than 500 hairdressers gathered in the seats usually reserved for international diplomats to learn about the campaign’s powerful message—Use Your Voice, Use Your Power, For a Beautiful World Without AIDS—which encourages hairdressers to become educated about HIV and AIDS so that they can talk to their clients about prevention methods and treatment options. The event included speakers ranging from Christine Schuster, senior vice president of education for Redken/Pureology, to Miguel Gomez, the director of AIDS.gov, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, who shared statistics such as that 33.4 million people worldwide are living with HIV and 60 percent of the people infected don’t even know they have the virus. An Verhulst-Santos, president of L’Oreal Professional Products Division, said, “Hairdressers touch so many people every day. You CAN change lives.”
Today, the official World AIDS Day, the 500-plus hairstylists are taking to the rainy streets of New York City to spread their message to 1 million people. New Yorkers will be able to film videos in booths around the city–and the stylists will be armed with Flip cams–which will be streamed to a billboard in Times Square and be featured on Facebook, YouTube and hairdressersagainstaids.com. Public service announcements can be viewed on taxi cab televisions, along with spots on the local CBS affiliate.
Hairdressers Against AIDS, which began in 2001 in Africa, is currently active in 27 countries around the world, with 500,000 stylists being trained each year. The organization’s goal is to spread to 50 countries by 2012. For more information on how to get involved, visit hairdressersagainstaids.com.