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Lighting a Christmas Candle – an example of good will or some not-so-secret pharmaceutical marketing?

December 20th, 2006

Dr Petra

A colleague passed the following chain mail message on to me yesterday as he had some concerns about it. It read

“This is the easiest fundraiser ever!
Bristol-Myers Squibb is donating $1 to AIDS programs every time someone goes to their amazing website and moves the match to the candle and lights it. It’s that simple! Please take two seconds to raise $1 and send this along to others Light To Unite”

Why was he worried? Surely any attempt to help raise money for AIDS programmes is a good thing?

Well, his concerns were as follows. “The site refers to “our commitment to donate $100,000 to the National AIDS Fund”, but elsewhere notes that far more than 100,000 people have already ‘lit a candle’. It is a brilliantly done site, blatantly advertising the BMS drugs for use in AIDS – and not even very devious. It is lavish with pretend solidarity & pious generosity”.

What the site is really doing is using a call for charity as a form of direct to consumer marketing. Some might see it as ‘the easiest fundraiser ever’. Others might have more concerns of cynical exploitation around Hanukkah/Christmas to make people want to light a candle.

So if you like the idea of lighting a candle and helping out AIDS charities you could avoid BMS’s site and try the following.

Light a Candle
allows you to light a virtual candle and add your own message which others can see and share. It’s a multi-language site and allows you to reflect on your candle and message before posting.

The following charities would welcome any donation you could spare:

Terrence Higgins Trust
SOS Children’s Villages

You can also volunteer for some HIV/AIDS projects (see sites above for more information) or help organise wider fundraisers.

And you could put pressure on drug companies so that they provide drugs at reasonable prices across the world. That would be a Christmas gift worth having.

One way to take action is to sign the petition outlined below….

Sign Medicins Sans Frontier’s ‘Drop the case’ petition

Millions of people around the world today rely on affordable medicines produced in India. Pharmaceutical company Novartis is taking the Indian government to court to force a change in the country’s patent law. If
Novartis wins, a major source of affordable medicines for millions of people across the globe could dry up.

MSF is urging Novartis to DROP THE CASE.

Find out more and sign up to our petition.


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