Actress and advocate Lexi Underwood (Little Fires Everywhere, Disney's Just Beyond) recently returned from a trip to Tanzania with (RED), an organization cofounded by U2’s Bono to fight HIV/AIDS and the health injustices that allow it to thrive in certain areas. Witnessing first-hand how seemingly small actions can have a ripple effect, Underwood shared an op-ed with Teen Vogue about what she learned on the trip.
In the piece, Underwood shares that every day, around 700 women between 15-24 contract HIV, which makes it the third leading cause of death in women worldwide. Even worse, young women in Sub-Saharan Africa are also three times as likely to be living with HIV than adolescent boys.
Underwood’s trip to Tanzania, joined by fellow ambassadors Phoebe Robinson (Two Dope Queens) and Martins Imhangbe (Bridgerton), allowed the advocates to learn directly from the doctors and grassroots organizers who have dedicated their lives to supporting these women in the fight against HIV first-hand.
One community group, Mentor Mothers, which is supported by (RED) through the Global Fund, was particularly inspiring to Underwood. The Mentor Mothers are “HIV-positive women who work as peer educators and role models to help encourage other women to know their HIV status and break down stigma in the community about what it means to have HIV.”
Underwood also noted that her own mother also joined on the trip, which made the experience more special. She laments the idea that preventable and treatable diseases should be just that — for everyone, everywhere, regardless.
As to her time with (RED), Underwood says her activism has just begun. She reflects on how every (RED) product and campaign since its inception in 2006 has raised money to support life-saving programs like that of the Mentor Mothers.
“Those programs have helped millions of people,” she says. “By choosing (RED) — from where we shop, to what products we use or even the car we drive — millions more lives can be saved in the years ahead.”