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Music Artists, MTV Link to Raise AIDS Awareness

International artists are joining MTV in a multimedia campaign to raise awareness of the impact of HIV and AIDS in South Africa.

The “46664” initiative takes its name from the prisoner number of former South African president Nelson Mandela when he was jailed under the apartheid regime in his country.

Mandela is the figurehead of the new campaign. He was in London for the Oct. 21 launch of 46664, which will deliver a concert, CD and DVD and organize a global petition on AIDS.

“AIDS today in Africa is claiming more lives than the sum total of all wars, famines and floods and the ravages of such deadly diseases as malaria,” Mandela said at the launch. “We must act now for the sake of the world. AIDS is no longer a disease; it is a human-rights issue.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which will manage much of the campaign, develops strategic alliances to foster community action in South Africa.

International ISP Tiscali, BBC World Service, Virgin Atlantic, FedEx and South African national broadcaster SABC are providing financial support or services to the campaign.

“We will join in this partnership with all our resources,” says Bill Roedy, president of MTV International. Roedy chairs the United Nations Global Business Council on HIV & AIDS.

The centerpiece of the initiative is a three-hour, multi-artist concert to be held Nov. 29 at Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town. Performers will include U2 vocalist Bono, Beyonce, members of Queen, 50 Cent, the Corrs and the Eurythmics.

A 90-minute edit of the show will air Dec. 1 (U.N.-designated World AIDS Day) on MTV channels worldwide. SABC will televise the show live domestically; Tiscali will Webcast it live internationally.

MTV is offering the TV package free to other broadcasters. The European Broadcasting Union and the Asian Broadcasting Union will distribute it in 80 countries.

“The hope is that this will be the largest-ever call to action against HIV and AIDS,” Roedy says. “It has the potential to be the most-watched show ever.”

The 46664 initiative was developed by Eurythmics member Dave Stewart, who wanted to help musicians support the fight against AIDS in Africa.

Stewart recruited fellow musicians Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen earlier this year to record new material to be used to benefit the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s AIDS work.

The first fundraising song to be made available is “46664 (Long Walk to Freedom),” co-written by the late Joe Strummer, Stewart and Bono.

Performed by Bono, Youssou N’Dour, Abdel Wright and Stewart, it is one of two songs available for download at 46664.com for $1.99 each. Consumers can make donations and hear the songs by calling various premium phone numbers published on the site.

Paul McCartney, Beyonce, Ms. Dynamite, Timbaland and Paul Oakenfold are featured on new material to be rolled out through the site and phone services.

A CD including the new material will debut in early 2004, and a DVD of the entire concert will be released. No decision has been made on a label for either.

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