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Gere pushes for AIDS awareness in India

Gere pushes for AIDS awareness in India

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BANGKOK -- Saying ''there's a terrorist in our midst, and it's not Osama bin Laden,'' actor Richard Gere stepped into a new role on a new stage Tuesday, offering AIDS experts here a progress report on his efforts to get 1 billion Indians talking about the AIDS epidemic.

''One in seven people infected with HIV/AIDS is in India, and that number is rising,'' Gere said. ''Very quickly India will be the highest-prevalence country in the world,'' bypassing current leader South Africa with its 4 million cases.

Gere announced agreements with two of India's biggest entertainment networks and the 24-hour, all-news NDTV to develop AIDS awareness programming.

He was joined by MTV president Bill Roedy, VH1 president Christina Norman and public health officials who rolled out public awareness campaigns aimed mainly at sexually active young people in the USA, Russia and China.

''With half of all new HIV infections among those under 25, engaging young people in this fight is not optional -- it's essential,'' Roedy said at the 15th International AIDS Conference.

With no cure or vaccine in sight and HIV spreading largely unchecked worldwide, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan convened top media executives in January to enlist them in a major AIDS awareness and prevention effort. The session produced the Global Media AIDS Initiative, a commitment by major media outlets to mix AIDS education messages into their programming.

Along with Gere's India partnerships, the members include:

* MTV with CCTV in China, the world's largest broadcaster, which reaches more than 1 billion people. In Russia, the music network will produce AIDS awareness programming with three media powerhouses, including Gazprom-media, Prof-Media and ROL (Russia Online).

MTV also is linking up with the United Nations' Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Kaiser Family Foundation to host a creative summit on HIV and AIDS. The event plans to bring together the most creative minds in television immediately after the International Emmy Awards to ''reinvent AIDS awareness programming.''

* VH1, along with the Global Fund to Fight Tuberculosis, Malaria and AIDS, will sponsor AIDS awareness messages for VH1's worldwide audience of 87 million. ''For many people in the U.S., it's an awareness that AIDS isn't over,'' VH1's Norman said.

The ads were scheduled to begin Tuesday during prime-time broadcasts of the network's 10-part series I Love the '90s.

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


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