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Fighting AIDS With Italian Vino. Sant'Egidio's Wine for Life Program

ROME, SEPT. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay group, is providing one more reason for Italians to drink great wine.

The Wine for Life program, begun in 2003, has found a way to combat AIDS in 10 African countries.

Rinaldo Piazzoni, the director of Wine for Life, told ZENIT that Sant'Egidio began the project to fund the DREAM program, which offers aid to women, men and children with AIDS in Africa, using a unique tri-therapy and innovative patient care.

DREAM, short for Drug Resources Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition, is a therapy program promoted by the community.

"Selling wine," he said, "a symbol of Italian living, the earth, and nature, seemed like a great opportunity to start helping in Africa."

Double value

Wine for Life works by selling stickers to wine producers, which they in turn put on the bottles they sell.

Each sticker costs 50 euro cents (about 70 U.S. cents), and says "Wine for Life: This bottle combats AIDS in Africa." The Web site for Sant'Egidio also appears.

The bottles are then sold in restaurants or wine shops, indicating to the consumer that a donation has already been made to the DREAM program.

"The sticker gives a double value to the wine," affirmed Piazzoni. "Not only is it a great product, but the purchase helps those who are sick and suffering in Africa."

The program now involves 110 wineries, including some that earmark the profits of one of their wines to the DREAM project.

Piazzoni said: "We have sold over 1.5 million stickers in the last four years, but Italy produces 40-50 million bottles of wine annually, so there is a lot more market to tap into.

"As of yet, we have only tried this program in Italy, but we think it could also be effective in other markets."

Having seen the success of Wine for Life, Sant'Egidio is expanding its program to include "Food for Life" and "Bread for Life."

Both initiatives also involve local merchants, restaurants and bakeries willing to designate a certain product to Sant'Egidio's work in Africa.

Some will use the stickers for their products, such as olive oil or rice, while others will advertise on menus that the profit of certain dishes will be donated to the fight against AIDS.