Fighting AIDS Through Fashion LINDA PALACIOS | CINCY CHIC Wednesday, August 19, 2009 When it comes to this local company, the way to look good is to help others. Learn how your fashion purchases can support African artists who are affected by HIV and AIDS. Most have heard the "Lean on Me" lyrics: "Lean on me, when you're not strong/ And I'll be your friend/ I'll help you carry on." But what if every other person around is fighting the same battle? This is the reality for the women and men in Mamelodi, South Africa. "The thing with South Africa is that if you're not infected, you're affected [with HIV]," says Jennifer Davis, founder of Beaded Hope. So while the people of Mamelodi offer what little they have to their neighbors, they need a little help. That's where Beaded Hope comes in. Davis founded Beaded Hope in 2005 after fulfilling her lifelong dream that year by visiting Africa. Her company offers the work of women who were raised in the tradition of beadwork. "I look at it as girlfriends connecting across the globe. ‚Ä¶ How would you treat a girlfriend here and what would you do for them? Here's a girlfriend in South Africa that you could also reach out to," Davis says. Beaded Hope products include headbands, jewelry, T-shirts and seasonal treasures. Davis purchases all of the products for Beaded Hope directly from the artists before the pieces go up for sale, but before the transaction occurs, Davis works with the women and other South African connections to ensure a fair price. "The ladies that work for us can certainly go out and sell their products in open-air markets throughout South Africa, and our goal is to pay them much more than what they would be paid in that environment just because those environments are not paying nearly what the women are worth," Davis says. With the fair prices, every $15 purchase can put two days' worth of food on the table for the artist. While Davis can keep track of the number of days' worth of food that Beaded Hope has helped to give these ladies, the number of people who have benefited from Beaded Hope is almost immeasurable, Davis says. For example, Davis and her husband paid a couple women for their work, and before the end of the transaction, the women started dancing and shouting, but Davis and her husband didn't understand the true meaning of the women's reaction until they discussed the experience with a native South African. "[They were excited because] they're going to have food on their table. Their children are going to have food on their table. Their families are going to have food on their table. Their neighbors are going to have food on their table because in South Africa when they receive, they share," he said, and with this sharing culture, the money provided to the women helps many more. Another example is an artist named Mrs. Tshabalala. She uses the money she makes in working with Beaded Hope to help run an orphanage, which houses many children whose parents' lives have been claimed by AIDS. Davis encourages Americans to learn from the South Africans and share what they have. "You don't have to be a multimillionaire or anybody famous to make that change because you're making that change one-on-one in a person's life," Davis says. Check out the online article here.