Ryan Lewis Reveals Mother’s HIV Battle; Launches 30/30 Project

Ryan Lewis — one-half of the Grammy-winning rap duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis — is opening up about his personal life in the name of a new health initiative.

The “Thrift Shop” star and his mother Julie appeared on CBS This Morning Wednesday to discuss advancements in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. It’s a topic that’s close to the Lewis’ hearts. After all, Julie has been battling the virus that causes AIDS since 1984.

For the first time, the producer is talking about the blood transfusion that left his mother infected with HIV-tainted blood 30 years ago. Now, mother and son are teaming up to launch the 30/30 Project, a foundation aimed at increasing the accessibility of HIV/AIDS treatments worldwide.

Julie was diagnosed HIV-positive at a time when the disease was deemed an almost certain death sentence by a perplexed medical community. She admits that she does feel some “survivor guilt,” but her goal now is to help as many people as she can.

“Yes, I’m grateful that I lived. But I want to do something to honor all those people that we love dearly who died along the way.”

After testing positive, Julie was given a life expectancy of five years. The now 62-year-old mom says the 30/30 Project is the Lewis’ way of celebrating her 30 year survival.

“We want to build medical centers worldwide that will stand strong for at least 30 years. It’s called the 30/30 Project,” Ryan says in a video touting the newly-formed foundation. The first health center will be built in a village in the African nation of Malawi. Currently, about 1 in 10 Malawian adults has HIV or AIDS. Patients currently have to walk two hours down a mountain to the nearest medical center.

Raising awareness of HIV/AIDS-related issues is something Ryan often raises his voice about. But then he’s always been that way. He was six when his parents explained Julie’s diagnosis — and he wasted no time sharing the news with anyone who would listen in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.

“I told my second grade class. You know, I told the lady bagging the groceries at the Albertsons…I have an AIDS ribbon tattooed on my arm. Like, if you’re going to do that you’ve got to be kind of willing to share.”