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Lil Nas X Includes Important HIV Issue in 2021 MTV VMA Performance

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Montero is about more than just music.

Sunday night, Lil Nas X turned on the star power for the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards, which celebrated 40 years of the network. He turned up on the red carpet in a custom Atelier Versace piece that was part suit, part gown. Then, he took to the stage for a high energy and sexy performance of his hits "Industry Baby" and "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)." He finished the night taking home the biggest award of the event: Video of the Year. The win was historic as Nas X is the first out Black gay artist to collect the accolade. But in his performance, he drew attention to more than just his music and his almost-almost nude body.

"Lil Nas X delivered a powerful performance at the VMAs and shined a spotlight on the stigma that fuels HIV, especially across the South," GLAAD wrote to Twitter following the performance. The young artist is from Georgia, which sits squarely in The South. "Mardrequs Harris from Southern AIDS Coalitioin wore the number 433,816 in red, representing the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. South."

HIV rates and stigma continue to plague the U.S. South. Stigma has been proven to keep people from getting tested, and from seeking care which leads to more spreading of the virus. 433,816 represented the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. South as of 2015, which has continued to increase. 

"This experience was surreal!" Harris said in a release. "Having the opportunity to share the stage with Lil Nas X was something I never would have imagined. And to have him use his platform to raise awareness about HIV stigma is invaluable to the work."

That stigma was highlighted on a national stage only weeks ago as rapper DaBaby went on a hate-filled rant. He has since posted a now-deleted apology and met with HIV advocates about his statements.

But Nas X did more than bring this number to the stage for visibility. The star also has been hosting a "baby registry." Crafted to go alongside his "album pregnancy" stunt, the registry is actually a listing of charities that fans can donate to. All 13 listed are a part of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative, aimed to reduce HIV-related health disparities, build awareness, advance education, and reduce stigma. 

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