Sean Combs, MTV focus on AIDS prevention

By | December 1, 2001 at 12:00 AM

First they tried it with George Michael, then Ricky Martin. Now MTV will use Sean “P. Diddy” Combs to educate youth around the world about HIV on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. The campaign, titled “Staying Alive,” will broadcast to nearly 600 million people across the globe from Spain to Korea carrying the message that HIV doesn’t discriminate and anyone who isn’t safe can become infected with the potentially deadly disease. “Staying Alive” will feature seven young people from around the world discussing how HIV or AIDS has affected their lives.

“The stories are very relatable. (‘Staying Alive’ features) everything from homosexual infection to IV drug use to blood transfusion, from every culture from every country,” said AnneMarie Kane of MTV Networks International. “All of the characters are very different, and AIDS has touched all their lives in very different ways.”

This message is important in a time when global HIV infections are soaring to astronomical rates, especially in Eastern Europe, where HIV infection rates rank No. 1 in the world right now, according to a United Nations report on AIDS released earlier this week.

In the United States, new cases of HIV among gay men have skyrocketed, and around the world, young people between ages 15 and 24 make up nearly 50 percent of new infections. MTV hopes to connect with its viewers in this target demographic to raise awareness on the risks of unsafe sex and intravenous drug use.

MTV has global reach and can potentially capture hundreds of millions of people with its documentary, which will be hosted by Combs on Saturday. In a statement, the hip-hop mogul said, “HIV and AIDS touches everyone, it kills without conscience, rich or poor, black or white, young or old.”

The UNAIDS World AIDS Day campaign, “I Care… Do You?” is focusing on erasing the lines people have drawn to segregate HIV-positive people from those who are negative. The campaign asks whether you may be HIV prejudiced, hoping that by revealing this intolerance more people will get tested and learn their status. In many communities around the world, people shy away from learning their HIV status in fear their family and friends will shun them.

According to the “Staying Alive” Web site, 90 percent of all HIV-positive people do not know they’re carrying the disease. MTV hopes to change this. “We focus on prevention information and stigma and anti-discrimination messaging,” MTV’s Kane said. “Hopefully we can really connect with young people about prevention and safe sex in a way they understand and that’s relevant in their lives.”

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