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HIV/AIDS Awareness: Karyn Brianne Watkins Rocks the Red Pump Project

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Do you have any red shoes? If so, pull them out and coordinate an outfit to go with them to wear this Saturday, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), or, by many, Rock the Red Pump Day. It is a day that culminates a social media campaign meant to stimulate conversation about preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the women and girls of the United States. It is a time to wear red pumps, red boots, red sneakers, or any red footwear you happen to have to draw attention to and show concern for the fact that every 35 minutes a woman tests positive for HIV in the United States. Rock the Red Pump Day is a passion of one of its founders, Karyn Brianne Watkins.

A lifelong Chicago-an, Karyn (on the left) is a passionate healthcare and nonprofit communicator focused on using new media to promote positive social and health behaviors. Previously in advertising, she moved into PR a few years ago because, as she says, "I wanted to be a greater participant in the conversations happening between people, businesses, and donors about various brands, initiatives, and organizations." So by day, she is a Senior Account Executive at Weber Shandwick and by night, she is a driving force behind the blogging campaign that takes place in the 50 days leading up to March 10th.

This "night job" began in 2009 when Karyn, or "KB" as she is affectionately known, partnered with Lovette "Luvvie" Ajayi to create The Red Pump Project. It started out as a campaign to get 100 bloggers to write about the issue. That first year, 125 bloggers participated, and the number has increased exponentially each year. This year, Karyn's goal is 2500 bloggers. It may sound ambitious, but she's not a woman to be easily intimidated. “HIV/AIDS is almost entirely preventable," she says. "If we ever want to nip this disease in the bud, we need more initiatives focused on education and conversation.”

Philanthropy, though, isn't just something she does at night; she truly lives a life of service, chronicled at The Fabulous Giver. She volunteers regularly, and participates in "parties for a purpose." Her site is a great place to go to get inspiration and motivation to help others without any of the guilt and with as much fun as possible. She attributes her inspiration to her mother, who suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. Karyn says, "No matter what happened with her health, my mother never stopped smiling or trying to spread warmth to others. On a daily basis, her spirit reminds me that we’re not alone and we have a responsibility to try and make the world a better place for another person, whether we know them or not."

Karen is one person who is not discouraged or overwhelmed by the needs of those around her. Instead, she is open to the opportunities they present for more meaningful conversation and a more purposeful life. If you'd like to participate in the Red Pump Project, either by blogging or attending an event, visit TheRedPumpProject.org.

What are you doing to spread information and communication about HIV/AIDS?

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