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Rihanna Says She Became an Activist Because the Number of Teens With HIV Was "Shocking"

Rihanna Says She Became an Activist Because the Number of Teens With HIV Was "Shocking"

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In this one-on-one interview, the "Diamonds" singer spoke to HIV Plus about getting involved with MAC, the virus statistics that shocked her most, and why you should watch the new film, It's Not Over, about young people living with HIV.

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Rihanna is sending out an “SOS” about HIV for her fans. The “Umbrella” singer has partnered with MAC Cosmetics in an awareness campaign that is designed to educate young people about the virus. As part of this campaign, Rihanna walked the red carpet at a recent Hollywood screening of It’s Not Over, a new documentary by Andrew Jenks about three young people living with HIV in different parts of the world, which is now streaming on Netflix.

The subjects are Paige, an American teenage girl born with the virus who raises awareness of HIV issues in schools throughout the country; Sarang, a gay playwright from India who is staging a production in support of same-sex marriage; and Lucky, an educator from South Africa who is trying to prevent other young people from making poor life decisions.

Standing alongside these extraordinary young people, Rihanna told us that it was the statistics about HIV infection that shocked her into getting involved: right now young people between the ages of 13 and 24 account for 26 percent of all new infections in the U.S., according to a 2010 CDC report.

“That’s younger than I am!” the 26-year-old singer exclaimed. “That’s how real that is. And people don’t know that, especially young people...and I think the only way to stop it is to have people know what’s going on.”

The musical superstar also cited her concern for the welfare of the youth as the primary motivator for her HIV activism. In addition to promoting the film, the pop icon has also launched a makeup line with Viva Glam, where 100 percent of the profits go towards helping people affected by HIV.

“I am very close with my fans, and when MAC approached me about this, I got a whole lot of information… a lot of heartbreaking real statistics that I didn’t know,” Rihanna said. “They were very shocking for me, and it’s something that I felt was important for me to get the word out, to spread the word, to educate young people, educate my fans on a matter that’s really killing us and killing the youth.”

Above, left to right: Filmmaker Andrew Jenks, MAC AIDS Fund Global Executive Director Nancy Mahon, singer Rihanna, Chairman of the MAC AIDS Fund and Group President, The Estee Lauder Companies Inc. John Demsey, and MAC Cosmetics Global Brand President Karen Buglisi Weiler attend the premiere of It's Not Over presented by MAC Cosmetics and MAC AIDS Fund at Quixote Studios on November 18, 2014 in Los Angeles.


The “Diamonds” singer is following in the footsteps of one of her role models, late actress and advocate Elizabeth Taylor, who co-founded amfAR, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and other HIV organizations. In fact, at the 2014 amfAR LA Inspiration Gala, Rihanna bid $100,000 on a photograph ofTaylor, which was signed by artist Willy Rizzo.

“Everybody loves Elizabeth Taylor!” Rihanna said. “She’s very glamorous. She’s the best that’s ever done it. But it was for a good cause. I didn’t mind spending every penny on it, because it all went to charity.”

It’s Not Over airs on Pivot on World AIDS Day, and is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.

It's Not Over Trailer from Its Not Over on Vimeo.

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Rihanna Says She Became an Activist Because the Number of Teens With HIV Was "Shocking"

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Daniel Reynolds

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Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.