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Michael Jackson Visits Capitol Hill to Discuss AIDS - 2004-04-01

Pop star Michael Jackson is in Washington to discuss his commitment to combating AIDS in Africa. He met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss the fight against AIDS. He told lawmakers he plans a visit to Africa later this year.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, a Texas Democrat, spoke to reporters, with Jackson standing at her side. "Mr. Jackson's voice will be able to be utilized in a campaign of awareness dealing with how to prevent HIV/AIDS, a voice to go forward and teach the various aspects of protecting oneself from HIV/AIDS," she says.

But Jackson's voice was barely heard at the news conference. Wearing a shiny red, bejeweled shirt and dark slacks, Jackson did not make any public statement, nor did he take questions from reporters. He was heard joking to lawmakers about the applause for his plans to go to Africa. "That was not loud enough!," he said.

Mr. Jackson is facing trial for allegedly molesting a child at his Neverland ranch in California, charges he denies. Congresswoman Jackson Lee says the pop star's African tour would depend on his legal obligations.

Michael Jackson had wanted to meet with the entire 38-member Congressional Black Caucus, but leaders turned him down, saying they were busy with legislative matters.

But a number of African ambassadors were on hand on Capitol Hill to meet with him, including Swaziland's Ambassador to the United States, Mary Madzandza Kanya. She says she hopes Jackson's involvement in the fight against AIDS will mobilize others to help. "We have been speaking about AIDS for years and years and nothing has been coming of it," she says. "We are so delighted, we are so hopeful that our discussions today will bear some fruit."

While in Washington, Mr. Jackson also is to accept a humanitarian award from the African Ambassador's Spouses Association.