Outspoken international pop icon Zara Larsson has teamed up with Durex and (RED) for World AIDs Day on December 1st in a new campaign that encourages people to "Have Sex and Save Lives." Money raised from each condom purchased goes directly to the Keeping Girls in School program in South Africa, an organization that combats HIV through education and improving access to women's health services.
"As I grew up, of course it wasn't an epidemic like it was, maybe in the '80s," Larsson says. "But it doesn't matter because it's still there. People are still being affected currently."
It's estimated that around 37 million people are currently living with AIDs around the world, according to UNAIDs, and 7.2 million of them are in South Africa.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and attacks the body's immune system. The most common ways to get HIV are through sexual contact or needle and syringe use. AIDs, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is the most severe phase of HIV and makes those affected extremely susceptible to severe illnesses.
In the 1990s, an HIV diagnosis almost certainly progressed to AIDs in a matter of years, according to HIV.gov. Today, with proper treatment, someone affected has the potential to live nearly as long as someone who isn't affected.
"It's so easy to think, as a young person no matter where you live, it won't happen to me," Larsson said. "But that's not the truth."
"It is a privilege the fact that I do have a pretty large amount of followers that will listen to me. At least some of them will actually listen to what I say," Larsson said. "And I think it would be a waste of influence if I didn't actually influence people in important things."