Can you tell by appearance if someone is HIV Positive?


By: Janice Dayle

Common_artiste.jpgAre you sick of hearing about especially youth who end up HIV positive because "They had no clue?" Are you lyrically fit and ready for a challenge?

Then get out your writing tools and carve out a good 60 second rhyme to express the importance of getting tested for HIV. Hip-hop Grammy winning artist Common has collaborated with It's Your (Sex) Life, a public information partnership between the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV, and the Common Ground Foundation, with support from Youth Speaks, to launch: "A Minute," a new lyrics contest to encourage young people to get tested for HIV.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HIV screening for all adults and adolescents (ages 13-64) in the United States. Through this new joint initiative, Common, MTV and Kaiser are encouraging young people to take a minute to inform themselves and others about HIV testing.

CDC estimates that in the United States 1 in 4 people do not know that they are HIV positive.

Research has also proven that particularly in African American and Caribbean communities, HIV is largely diagnosed at late stages, implying again that Black people especially, do not test and so only discover their illness once they become extremely ill - in the later stages, leading to higher instances of mortality and morbidity.

'A Minute' aims at helping to put a stop to all that, because one major weapon in the fight against HIV is knowledge. Submitting original lyrics about the importance of getting tested will give winning writers a chance to have their lyrics used to create a special PSA (Public Service Announcement) to be song by Common and premiered live on MTV on National HIV Testing Day, June 27, 2008. The PSA will also air throughout the summer on MTV2 and mtvU, MTV’s college network, as well as be available on demand at

"It's important to know your status by getting tested because HIV/AIDS is taking a lot of lives in our community and around the world. I had an uncle succumb to HIV, so I've personally felt the impact of the disease," Common said. "Your lyrics can really have an affect on people's lives and I’ve seen it happen."

Ian Rowe, VP of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnership, MTV said, "This contest offers our audience an amazing way to bring their words to life through Common's voice and will serve as a powerful way to drive home the importance of getting tested."

The competition that intends on engaging and inspiring youth everywhere to learn more about HIV and to get tested, kicked off on Valentines Day on MTV's TRL (Total Request Live). To learn more about the contest or apply, visit or

"The stigma surrounding HIV remains a barrier to many people getting tested," said Tina Hoff, Vice President and Director of Entertainment Media Partnerships at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "By normalizing HIV testing, this contest seeks to make getting tested a mark of empowerment not shame."