There's a huge gathering going on in Mexico City right now. Over 25,000 strong, the attendees come from all over the world and consist of celebrities, young people, doctors, scientists, citizens, advocates, the curious and the concerned. They represent a diverse range of nations and backgrounds, but they share one thing in common: a concern for stemming the spread of the global AIDS pandemic and creating a conducive environment for people living with the virus. The name of the gathering is the International AIDS Conference (IAC), and it takes place every two years in a different location around the world. The conference is bringing these people together so that they will have a forum to discuss the wide range of issues associated with the AIDS pandemic.
MTV’s HIV AIDS awareness campaign, Staying Alive, has their own space in the main conference hall where they are hosting an interactive media lounge. They’re using it for a whole range of great activities – listed below – as well as making it a place for young women and men to come together and talk about their own experiences or concerns about AIDS – it’s also a much needed place to chill out and process everything they are learning at the conference.
One cool initiative taking place in this creative space is a ‘speak out wall’ which encourages young people to leave a message about HIV AIDS. These messages are posted up around the lounge for others to view and learn from – topics covered so far are wide ranging and diverse – they’ve got everything from coming out to testing. There’s also a video booth where people are invited to share their thoughts and experiences of HIV AIDS on camera – the footage will be used on staying-alive.org with a view to further raising awareness.
The two major initiatives that are taking place in this space are The Big Question and Untold Stories – both partnerships between MTV and MySpace.
The Big Question takes one question that everyone has an opinion on –namely “why, despite being aware of the risks are young people still having unsafe ***?” People stopping by the media lounge are encouraged to log on to MySpace and leave their answer. The responses so far have been interesting and varied – check them out here – it gives a real insight into how young people are thinking about this important issue – and it certainly made me think as well. I look forward to seeing what you guys have to say on the issue. MTV is also filming video responses to the question in the media lounge and around the conference – the footage will be posted on the MySpace page for all to see and learn from – so be sure to check out the page.
The second initiative, Untold Stories, is a writing competition with a twist – three well known authors have written the opening 70 words of a short story with an HIV AIDS awareness message seamlessly integrated. Celebrities including Selma Blair, Ludacris and Ashley Judd have got involved by reading out the scripts on camera – this footage is being shown on MTV channels and used as a directive for young people to log on to MySpace and upload their own ending to the story. In September, one complete story will be chosen as a winner, the prize is great – the opportunity to – with the help of MTV- make the story into a short film for MTV channels, as well as a trip to India. You can check out the stories and responses so far by checking out the page here. The competition ends on September 2nd, so be sure to stop by the page before then to join the conversation (and perhaps win a shot at having your story immortalized on MTV!)
While both The Big Question and Untold Stories are being featured at the IAC conference in Mexico City, you don't have to be there to be a part of it. This is a great opportunity to listen to what people all over the world have to say about a pandemic that effects everyone, and grow from these new perspectives.
In addition to providing support for the events I just listed, Dell will also be providing 5 XPS M1330 (PRODUCT) RED laptops with Windows Vista® Ultimate (PRODUCT) RED to the MTV lounge so that attendees can blog about their experiences there – as well as participate in the two MySpace initiatives.
Towards the end of the conference these laptops will be given away as prizes to five deserving grassroots projects attending the International AIDS Conference. All week people have been filling out entry forms in a bid to win one of the computers. Entrants have had to state how themselves or their project could really benefit from winning a laptop. When I last checked, there had been over 500 entries and queues were forming at the media lounge as word spread of this great giveaway.
We are happy to play a role in facilitating dialogue and education about this important global issue, and hope that the small role we are playing in this huge movement to eradicate AIDS makes a difference.