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Rapper Promotes HIV/AIDS Awareness

Friday December 1st was World AIDS Day -- a day set aside to publicize the challenges presented by that deadly disease. In the U.S., the rap artist Chris Bridges - better known as Ludacris - is making his own contribution to that effort, launching an AIDS awareness campaign called "Kick Me." During a visit to VOA he talked about his efforts. For producer George Dwyer, VOA's Jim Bertel has more.

The lyrics to many Ludacris songs have drawn criticism in the past for their explicit references to sex and violence. But the 29-year-old rapper's audience of young people around the world will benefit from the AIDS awareness messages he is broadcasting today, as will the singer himself, says VOA Music Mix host Ray McDonald. "I think Ludacris is consciously tailoring his message for a wider audience, adopting this tone of social responsibility. It both helps his listeners and it helps him because as he get older he is maturing and he is growing his image. I think it is very wise."

Ludacris is not shy about admitting the role sex plays in his music. But now -- for the first time -- he is saying publicly how important he thinks it is for young people understand how to practice safe sex. So he has joined with the group YouthAIDS to help promote its "Kick Me" campaign to raise HIV/AIDS awareness.

"The 'Kick Me' campaign is kind of like, back in the day, you are like a walking billboard. Somebody puts the 'Kick Me' sign on your back, but now we're putting the awareness signs of HIV on people's backs so they are like a walking billboard. And it just encourages people to get tested and know their status and to have safe sex."

The singer (rapper) says a trip to Africa inspired his work on the campaign. "It was there that I met a lot of people who were infected with the virus, especially young kids. So that is what really made me come back here and get involved. So it definitely had a powerful impact."

The Grammy Award-winning artist says he believes youth empowerment and health awareness are essential tasks globally. And, he says, he will continue to use his fame to send that message around the world.