Producer Ryan Lewis, who came to prominence with his partner Macklemore, used his high profile to raise awareness for the 30/30 Project, the healthcare foundation created by his HIV-positive mother, Julie, in April. Julie has successfully battled the disease for 30 years and hopes to create medical facilities worldwide that can also stay strong for 30. The mother-son duo launched a poignant video campaign last month, and now they’ve taken another step, recently appearing as guests on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.
Their short segment explains the project in detail, chronicling the origins of Julie’s HIV infection, which she contracted during a blood transfusion in 1984, following the birth of Ryan’s older sister, Teresa. “My initial reaction: I was relieved it was only me that was infected,” Julie says. At birth, Ryan had a 25 percent chance of contracting the disease.
Julie’s condition went undiagnosed for years, and Ryan learned the complicated news at the age of 6. Reflecting back on that time in his life, Ryan says he understood that his mother’s illness was life-threatening but couldn’t comprehend the social stigma that surrounded HIV. “I was telling my second grade class [my mother was HIV positive],” he said with a laugh. “My teacher called my mom.”
The project’s first goal was to build a medical facility in the African nation of Malawi, partnering with Construction for Change and healthcare providers from Partners in Health. The team launched an IndieGoGo campaign with a target funding goal of $100,00, and they’ve already brought in $138,718 at the time of this post.
“For me personally, to hop onboard and use the amazing success and blessings in my life to pull off something like the 30/30 Project is awesome,” Ryan says.