Thanks to the huge influence of U2 front man and anti-poverty campaigner, Bono, Apple has introduced a special edition Product Red iPod nano.

Some money from each one sold will be contributed to a global fund to fight AIDS, Tubercolosis and Malaria in Africa. These three diseases kill millions of people, year upon year, and the treatment to save life is already available. But it costs money, money that people in the countries most affected just don't have.

I have very strong feelings about AIDS. It's not a gay plague. Nor is it a disease that only affects the poor, the uneducated, or weak. It's indiscriminate - it really doesn't mind who it kills.

My cousin was ten years old when he fell victim to the disease. It was early days in the AIDS crisis, this was even before we began to be told (inaccurately) that it was a "gay plague". My little cousin wasn't gay. He was a haemophiliac. One of a handful of such children who contracted and died of the disease in the early days, before anyone really understood it.

He acquired the disease from an infected blood transfusion. The blood that killed him was imported from the US, which had no screening against AIDS at that time, as such screening did not exist.

Because the way the disease spread wasn't fully understood back then, my cousin's mother, my auntie, was led to a special room in the hospital to see her little dead son. She found him shrouded in thick plastic - an attempt to prevent infection. Her little son, wrapped up like meat. She tore the plastic from his corpse and howled for the death of her little boy. Because he was a haemophiliac, looking after him was never easy, but to see him stolen from her at just ten years old was cruel beyond belief.

Things are better now. We understand AIDS. We have treatments, ways to diminsh the ravages of the disease, we understand how it is spread, we can prevent that. Those who contract AIDS can get a cocktail of drugs which seem to delay or slow its effects. People can enjoy their lives. At least they can if they have the cash - if they have medical insurance, a government-funded assistance scheme, or some other way to procure the drugs they need.

In Africa, every single day, day in, day out, there is a mother howling for their dead child. In Africa, every single day, day in, day out, there is a child sitting silent by their mother's body, waiting for them to wake from a sleep that never ends. A man loses his woman. A woman her man. Whole families ravaged. Communities destroyed. Countless millions march the dance of death across a continent rich in natural resources, land and ancient culture. Every day more people die, and I can't dismiss that - I can't say that 'death is a part of life', and make a contribution to a local church to salve my corrupt conscience. All I see is my cousin and my auntie and the suffering they - and my whole family - went through as a result of the disease.

The difference is that when this happened in my life the disease wasn't understood, We didn't know how to treat it. We didn't know where it came from. We do now. This means that every AIDS death across the whole planet is - to an extent - avoidable.

There is a clear argument to make treatments for diseases like AIDS freely available. Drugs companies who own patents for treatments for such diseases really could make their medication recipes available on some kind of open source model. Then nations could create their own treatments. Drugs companies could perhaps receive a small but substantial payment from the UN for this. This hasn't happened, and seems unlikely to happen. Cash - and "shareholder value" - is king. Flower Power, as John Lennon once said, "didn't work".
Enter Bono, Product Red, and his attempt to persuade companies that it's worth exploring ethical business models. It's a good thing. Anything that helps prevent needless and disgusting deaths from a disease we could treat and combat in an instant, if we only had the will - has to be welcomed.

It's not just the money that may be raised through the sale of these specially-branded products that helps, it's the fact that the existence of them gets us talking about the realities of what is happening on a global scale.

In some parts of the world we are cossetted by consumerism, spoilt for choice when shopping, separated from the realities of life for the majority of the globe's population by our comfort zones.
Product Red bursts that bubble.

When it comes to iPods, we focus on the music and the products that define the digital beat. We're all about the empowerment implicit within this personal technology. Apple's move to release a Product Red iPod nano reminds us of life outside our bubble.

A life that's constantly under attack. A life that every religion says is important. A life which, after several thousand years of civilisation, human beings still seem to count as cheap. It's not so cheap. Just think of those mothers with their children, think on this and accept that we are a globally-connected world now, and ask yourself if you can visualise this suffering and still hold down your breakfast.

Some will say that there has to be an element of self-help here. People must be aware of the risks, they say. People must be responsible, they add. Education is a luxury item, however, and while that argument may work in Surbiton, it may not work in Africa. It's an argument that cuts both ways - if we can see what others should be doing, then how do we help them do it? Lecture them? Who wants that? Show support tangibly, I say, and that's what Product Red does.

Red is not a charity. It is a business model. We buy things anyway, so why not buy products which cost the same as other products, but also guarantee that a few pills will be given to people suffering preventable disease? If they don't get those pills, they die. It's that simple.

In Africa, over 12 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. Two million people died of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa last year.

I'd love to see that change. Relying on global governments or the many charities to achive this change has failed so far - not for want of trying on the part of the charities, by the way. If nothing else, buying Product Red products is a way to show you care, and those who watch these things may just see success in sales of such products as sufficient reason to act.