Inquiring Minds

World AIDS Day: Artists Who Have Contributed to the Cause

Today is World AIDS Day. The theme this year is "Getting to Zero," focusing on zero AIDS related deaths. In hopes of achieving this goal, there has been many a celebrity to endorse AIDS awareness and various charities around the world.

Quite a few musicians have used their celebrity status to get behind a particular foundation or charity fighting for AIDS Awareness. Some have even started their own foundations, visiting places like South Africa and India, where treatment and future prevention is so vital. According to the Center for Disease Control, More than two-thirds of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS are located in developing countries. Last year, three-fourths of the 2.7 million new HIV infections occurred in these countries

We put together a short list of some of the most influential artists in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Their work ranges from mundane latex costumes to extravagant fundraisers.

Freddie Mercury, lead singer from Queen, was one of the first big-name rock stars to die from AIDS. Mercury kept his HIV status hidden for many years and it wasn't until he began looking ill that fans and reporters took notice. Mercury died on November 24, 1991.

The following year, the rest of the band hosted The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness at Wembley Stadium in London. The concert helped set up the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which has since contributed to various AIDS charities. There were over 22 performances broadcasted in 67 countries. Guest performers and supporters included Metallica, Elizabeth Taylor, Def Leppard, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Robert Plant, Liza Minelli, Davie Bowie, and many others.

P. Diddy raised over $2 million during the 2003 New York Marathon for New York schools and children suffering from HIV/AIDS. Diddy only trained for two months prior to running the 26.2 mile marathon, which he completed in a little over four hours.

His biggest sponsors included New York Michael Mayor Bloomberg, Jamie Foxx, Jay-Z, and Jennifer Lopez.

This year, Lady Gaga joined the MAC Viva Glam AIDS Fund, which was founded in 1994 with spokesperson RuPaul. The Fund has included Elton John, Cyndi Lauper, and Mary J. Blige. MAC plans on bringing in Nicki Minaj and Ricky Martin by next year.

Gaga also dressed like a condom this past February on Good Morning America with the intention of being a physical representation of safe sex. "I really wanted to, head-to-toe, be representative of what we women and people all over the world need to be concerned about, which is the leading cause of death in women all around the world, which is HIV."

Alicia Keys is the co-founder of Keep A Child Alive, a foundation that funds eleven programs and care centers in Africa and India. Keys, along with five other Americans, visited South Africa last year during the World Cup to film the documentary, Keep A Child Alive with Alicia Keys. The film will air on Showtime tonight.

You might remember Keys' "Digital Death" campaign for last year's World AIDS Day. Top Twitter celebrities stopped tweeting and Facebooking until people "bought them back from the dead" and contributed to the campaign. It included Kim Kardashian, Usher, Serena Williams, and Elijah Wood among others. Some participants, like Usher and Kardashian, couldn't handle not Tweeting for a few days and came back from the dead early.

Annie Lennox confused people after wearing a shirt that read "HIV Positive" for her SING Campaign, founded in 2007. Her heart was in the right place, though.

Lennox started her foundation after visiting Robben Island, where former South African president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for eighteen years. Outside of his prison cell, Mandela spoke about HIV/AIDS and how it was a genocide. Mandela's son died of AIDS in 2005.

Of course, if we're talking about AIDS Awareness and philanthropy, we have to mention Bono. He's practically canonized as the patron saint of causes.

Bono has been an AIDS activist since 1999. His humanitarian work got him nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, 2005, and 2006. He first started his work in philanthropy by founding Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa (DATA). Since founding DATA, he's gone on to help foundations like the ONE Foundation and Product Red.