Wendy Dembo was annoyed with the (Product) RED campaign, the Bono-backed effort to fight AIDS in Africa by selling RED-logoed products, from Gap T-shirts to iPods. “I’m glad the Gap is helping Africa, but I want to help people in the U.S., too,” says Dembo, 40. So the West Village marketing consultant made her own T-shirt: UNINSU(RED). The shirt went on sale two weeks ago at Reed Space, a trendy Orchard Street shop. “I thought this was a way to get the hipster kids to think about the importance of health insurance,” she says. Fourteen $28 shirts were sold before the RED people sent a cease-and-desist letter, according to shop staffers. (A RED spokesperson declined to comment.) The proceeds aren’t going to health-care advocacy, but Dembo, who pays a $960 monthly premium for her own insurance, says she’s giving away one in three shirts to uninsured friends. Tarra Cunningham, 40, recently wore one while running errands downtown. “I thought it would protect me from crazy cabdrivers,” she says. A tomato-seller at the Union Square Greenmarket gave her a discount, and medical workers at Beth Israel averted their eyes. When she approached her own East Village block, she recalls, “I met with knowing glances and people going ‘Yeah!’ It was fantastic—the most eventful walk home I’ve ever had.”
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