Artistes Against AIDS - Using the Power of Music Against a Pandemic
In October 2000 Jamaica’s Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNICEF invited UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS. Belafonte, whose parents are Jamaican, recruited local artists in the fight against AIDS. Thus was born Artists Against AIDS, led by reggae singer Tony Rebel. The group now counts among its members international reggae stars such as Grammy winner Beenie Man, Morgan Heritage and Luciano.
It released the CD “Protect Prepare” in 2002 and a video featuring the song was developed in 2004. This video is being used as an edutainment tool to teach young people about safer sex, abstinence and HIV prevention.
Artists Against AIDS leader Tony Rebel explains:
“My talent as a musician is to teach, strengthen and help people as I can all over the world. One area where I saw I could help was to sensitise people to the deadly disease of HIV/AIDS because I learned that the Caribbean has the second highest rate of the disease after sub-Saharan Africa.
Harry Belafonte came and solicited the artists of Jamaica to help educate the people around here. So five people went up into the hills for a while, wrote the song and I helped produce it. We used about 15 different popular artists.
The song is called “Protect Prepare.” We hope it will sensitise people about the myths that have grown up around the disease. We hope that people will realize that life is not over if they have the disease. They can still be productive. And all of the stigma around it can be removed. If one out of 10 people have the virus, it means you will know people who have it, and you can relate to them. Because we have instances all over Jamaica where people who have HIV are being discriminated against. We hope the song can help this. People will listen to the music and get the message. It can really help people understand more about it.
In our performances we always talk about AIDS. In our music we teach people to be aware of what is happening around them. It’s about loving each other. AIDS is just one issue. We also tell people not to cut down the trees. We tell people to put down their guns. It’s a part of my act. I try to uplift and inspire the audience. We educate as we entertain.”