While performing his singles “Industry Baby” and “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," Lil Nas X included an important message about the alarmingly high rate of HIV transmission in the southern states of America.
Mardrequs Harris, the Southern AIDS Coalition’s director of community investments, joined the rapper on stage wearing a black jumpsuit with the number 433,816 emblazoned on the back in red, which represents the universal color of awareness and support for HIV.
Harris’ outfit was a reference to the 433,816 people who are living with HIV in the South, a number that has dramatically increased over the years, according to GLAAD.
“This experience was surreal! Having the opportunity to share the stage with Lil Nas X was something I never would have imagined,” Harris said. “And to have him use his platform to raise awareness about HIV stigma is invaluable to our work.”
Billy Porter, who introduced Lil Nas X said that when he was starting out “the people were not ready for all this Black boy joy.” Porter continued, “But children, it’s a new day and I’m so thankful to have lived long to witness it.” Porter recently revealed that he's been HIV positive for the past 14 years.
Lil Nas X’s performance at the VMA's follows his announcement of the Montero baby registry that coincides with the releases of his Montero album on September 17. Each song on the album has listed a charity or organization that fans can donate to, including 13 HIV organizations that are part of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®. The initiative has established a 10-year plan to commit $100 million in support of hundreds of organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.
Dafina Ward, Executive Director of the Southern AIDS Coalition, a Gilead COMPASS Initiative Coordinating Center, expressed her excitement about partnering with Lil Nas X.
When public figures like Lil Nas X– particularly those from the U.S. South – use their platforms to communicate HIV facts, it encourages a new generation to join this fight to end this epidemic once and for all," Ward said. "COMPASS launched four years ago with the belief that those on the front lines of HIV in the Southern United States would work better together, empowering new leaders, reaching members of their communities, and improving their capacity to care for people living with or affected by HIV."
The U.S. South has 52% of undiagnosed HIV infections and 44% of people now living with HIV were diagnosed in the South.
GLAAD’s 2021 State of HIV Stigma study found that more than half of Americans don’t know that with proper treatment, HIV is undetectable and untransmittable, U=U.