Fashion designer and AIDS activist Kenneth Cole was named an international goodwill ambassador Tuesday by the head of the U.N.’s AIDS-fighting organization.
The appointment by UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe came on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly’s high-level meeting on ending AIDS on Wednesday through Friday.
Cole told reporters at a news conference at U.N. headquarters he hopes to combine his United Nations work with his work at The Foundation for AIDS Research, known as amfAR, and its goal of finding a cure for the disease by 2020.
He said it’s as important as ever to continue bringing about awareness of AIDS because a cure is within reach even as calls for pulling back funding for AIDS research increase.
“AIDS can be ended as a public health crisis if the resources are available,” he said.
Cole has long been involved in the global effort to end HIV and AIDS, joining the board of amfAR in 1987 and initiating its public awareness campaigns. He later became chairman.
“We are entering a crucial phase of the response to HIV and I know that Kenneth can make a significant and powerful contribution towards our shared vision of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” Sidibe in announcing the appointment.
In 1986, at a time when few people were speaking out publicly about worsening virus, Cole enlisted a group of supermodels including Christie Brinkley for a public service advertisement for AIDS research photographed by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.