HIV is still a killer disease. Every 10 seconds, someone dies of its fatal consequence - AIDS. Think about two friends close to you. In the short time it takes you to reads this, it might have killed them both and yourself. And the fact is that we have made so much progress that with the proper treatment, you don’t have to die from it. And there are populations around the world that are not getting the attention or resources they need to turn the tide in the same direction as we have with the many long-term survivors with HIV.
The truth is that if you are fortunate enough to live in a country that provides adequate your health care, HIV is now a manageable illness. Nobody on this planet should die of AIDS anymore, yet still we face millions of deaths every year and every single one of them is even more cruel and painful because the means are there to prevent it.
Today, we have the power to end AIDS. Not simply through prevention, but with new medications that help prevent and treat HIV, as well as increasing understanding of the disease itself. Will there be a vaccine? No one knows for sure but today we can have much more hope than ever before. But that hope should not translate into complacency, in fact it should inspire us to push ever harder to ends AIDS.
To make this a global reality we need to take the next step. The fight against AIDS is not only a question of money but also, a question of keeping the world’s attention focused on this battle. The challenge of course is that everyone wants our money and everyone wants our attention, so how can we give the HIV movement the push it needs?
Back in 2010, an old friend of mine Philipp stopped by to visit me in Berlin. We went for a drink and as the evening went on, he told me about an idea he and his colleagues had: .hiv – a domain ending as a global AIDS awareness campaign. Philipp is a calm guy and his story was no sales pitch but it was so full of excitement and opportunity that I didn’t sleep for three nights. It was on the fourth night I knew I wanted to see this happen and I had to be a part of it!
It’s often small moments that make all the difference. I call them “moments of truth” and this was my first one. This was the birth of dotHIV.
To end AIDS, we have to achieve something that is different from classic, charitable giving and different from standard awareness campaigns. Is it possible to make the fight against AIDS a daily practice in our now digital lives? What if we could establish it in the DNA of the Internet?
My second moment of truth was two years later in Washington D.C. where I was attending the International AIDS Conference. This conference is the bi-yearly epicenter of the HIV world with 25,000 participants. We were making big steps with dotHIV and I felt at the right place at the right time. And then came Debbie McMillan.
Debbie is what is called “high risk” in the HIV world. African-American, transgender, former sex worker, former drug user. She was also, and still is, the best speaker I’ve ever heard. Debbie gave me an enormous gift: Her testimony turned me into an activist. Her story, beauty, wit and pride changed me. Since that day, I no longer only think dotHIV, I feel it with all of my heart.
So how does dot hiv work?
Think about your grocery store for a moment - the one you visit regularly. Imagine if the store upgraded one of its entrance doors so that from that moment on, each and every time you enter the store through this door, you would trigger a donation to charity. Wouldn’t that be great? Now let’s switch to the online world. Domain names are like doors to websites and they have two elements: The name — Google — and the domain ending— .com
Until now, the ending held little meaning. Dot com for companies, .org for organizations but all this is changing as new domain endings are coming to the web, offering better choices for website owners.
And here’s the best one: .hiv is the first and only domain ending designed exclusively for a social cause. .hiv domains are Digital Red Ribbons and every single .hiv address not only raises awareness but every click on a .hiv site triggers a small donation for the global fight against AIDS. It’s so easy to use: you get a .hiv domain for about $16 a month. You can just pick the same name as the .com address you already use and simply redirect your visitors to example.hiv to example.com. And there you have it, the upgraded entrance to your store. Same website, two domain doors but only .hiv triggers a donation.
In September, we started global sales of .hiv domain names. BMW.hiv, Amazon.hiv, Cure.hiv and Chanel.hiv have been registered already — and there have been thousands of clicks on .hiv domains already and we are seeing more companies and more clicks everyday.
For dotHIV I quit my PhD, I quit my job and I spent time away from my husband and child travelling around the world 4 times spreading the good word and I couldn’t be happier to see this change taking place.
From now on we all have a choice — which door will you choose?
Carolin Silbernagl is co-founder of dotHIV, the first domain ending with a social purpose, and CEO of the TLD dotHIV Registry GmbH. She has a passion to see as many webpages as possible wear their Digital Red Ribbon. For five years she worked in the field of education giving students an understanding of founding and social entrepreneurship before she decided to give it a try herself. Since 2011, she has travelled around the globe four times in order to bring .hiv to life. For more info, visit Register.hiv.