Lil Nas X delivered a powerful message about HIV during his awe-inspiring MTV Video Music Awards performance.
The trailblazing rapper and singer stole the show at the VMAs, which went ahead in New York City on Sunday (12 September). He won the award for best video and unleashed a spectacular performance of his songs “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby”.
It was during that performance that Lil Nas X included a subtle but important message about the alarmingly high rate of HIV transmission in America’s southern states.
Mardrequs Harris from the Southern AIDS Coalition joined the rapper on stage wearing a black jumpsuit with the number 433,816 emblazoned on the back in red writing.
His outfit referenced the fact that there are currently 433,816 people living with HIV in the south, shining a much-needed spotlight on the extent to which the virus continues to circulate in some communities.
Lil Nas X won praise for drawing attention to HIV transmission at the MTV VMAs
Fans rushed to social media to heap praise on Lil Nas X for drawing attention to HIV transmission during his empowering VMAs performance.
Lil Nas X just keeps delivering. An unapologetic queer & Black performance. Continued stigma busting work to lift up the HIV advocacy work happening in the south. Keep being you! #VMAs https://t.co/h5b6sWsOru
— Lee Storrow (@leestorrow) September 13, 2021
— Mika Lovely (@onlymikalovely) September 13, 2021
Lil Nas X fired back at DaBaby with his performance……..I love it. ( regarding his statement, a member of his dance team was wearing the number of individuals living with HIV in the US South)
— DeeJay (@DaddieDeejay) September 13, 2021
Thank you @LilNasX for your continued advocacy and commitment to supporting organizations on the ground working to end HIV! and congrats to @SouthernAIDSCo’s Mardrequs Harris (@mharris3216) https://t.co/uIeiSl4e5Z
— Black AIDS Institute (@blackaids) September 13, 2021
The powerful act of advocacy came in the middle of a star-studded event, which saw high-profile figures ranging from Madonna to Olivia Rodrigo descending on New York.
Naturally, Lil Nas X managed to steal the show, delivering what was arguably the best performance of the night. He also turned heads on the red carpet, which he walked wearing a glittering purple gown and a wig.
The rapper’s extraordinary act of advocacy comes just weeks after a GLAAD study found that the southern states in America have the highest rates of HIV transmission in the country.
The “2021 State of HIV Stigma Study” also found that the south has the highest HIV-related death rate in America and that stigma surrounding the virus is pervasive.
“If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two, three weeks, then put your cellphone light up,” DaBaby said.
He was roundly criticised by activists and HIV advocacy organisations, with many pointing out that people with HIV can now live long, healthy and happy lives since the dawn of anti-retroviral medication in the late 1990s.
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