Actor, HIV/AIDS Advocate Richard Gere Says Media is Crucial in Fighting Pandemic
Actor and HIV/AIDS advocate Richard Gere on Monday at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto joined media officials from the Caribbean, India, Russia and South Africa to promote the media's role in raising HIV/AIDS awareness, the Associated Press reports (Duff-Brown, Associated Press, 8/14). Gere in 2004 co-founded the Heroes Project -- which uses celebrities from Bollywood films, sports figures, business leaders and government officials as spokespeople to increase public discussion of the Indian HIV/AIDS epidemic with television, radio and print advertisements (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/24/05). Gere has collaborated with Peter Mukerjea, CEO of STAR India television, to reach an estimated 70 million viewers with its HIV/AIDS public service announcements, in partnership with Avahan, the India AIDS initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation (Heroes Project release, 8/14). Star CEO Peter Mukerjea and Gere at a press conference Monday said STAR is renewing a five-year commitment worth $23.16 million to continue the Heroes Project campaign. "When it comes to HIV/AIDS, we did not bat an eyelash to bringing it on ourselves to do something to make a difference," Mukerjea said (Associated Press, 8/14). "As a media company, the most effective thing we could do was use our platform and reach out to the millions of people who watch television shows every evening with messaging that was going to connect with them in a society which is extremely sensitive to the subject as a whole," Mukerjea added. "I deeply love India, and I will continue to deeply love India," Gere said, adding, "And it's deeply important to me that India not make the mistakes that we made in America -- where we had no leadership, we didn't take it seriously and hundreds of thousands of people died who didn't have to" (Ubelacker, Canadian Press, 8/14). According to a report released last week by India's Registrar-General and Census Commissioner, an estimated 11 million people in India could die of AIDS-related illnesses by 2026 (Priest, Globe and Mail, 8/15).
Kaisernetwork.org is serving as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006. Moderated by Bill Roedy of MTV Networks International, the conference session on media and AIDS featured a panel of broadcast executives and a leading AIDS advocate discussing the mobilization of the media industry following the 2004 launch of the Global Media AIDS Initiative by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a special meeting organized by the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS. Video of the session is available online.