Television Will Help Win The Anti-AIDS Revolution


The following are excerpts of remarks made by Cable Positive honorees Robert L. Johnson [CEO] and Debra L. Lee [President & COO] of Black Entertainment Television, during Cable Positive's "Positively Visionary" benefit dinner May 1 in New York.

Over three decades ago, the original rapper, Mr. Gil Scott Heron, told a generation that the "Revolution Would Not Be Televised." And he was absolutely right.

There is a revolution taking place in our community in general — and the African-American community in particular. It is a revolution to overcome the way we perceive and address a powerful enemy — an enemy whose names are HIV and AIDS. It is as fatal as any bullet. It is as invasive as any troops. It kills indiscriminately and effectively. Its allies are ignorance, fear and misinformation.

Every year, it is the leading cause of death for African Americans ages 25 to 44 — more than cancer, heart disease or crime-related violence.

One in 50 African-American men have HIV. One in 160 African-American women are HIV positive – and black women account for 63% of new AIDS cases reported among women in the United States. Young African-Americans make up 60% of new AIDS cases among teens ages 13 to 19. African-American children represent 65% of new pediatric AIDS cases. Fifty percent of all new HIV infections occur in young people under the age of 24.

Today, 40 million people worldwide are living
with HIV/AIDS. Today, too many people are dying from HIV/AIDS.

The HIV/AIDS revolution is not being televised — but it is most certainly being fought with the incredible power of the medium of television and the vast resources of the cable industry.

We at BET are immensely proud of the Rap-It-Up Campaign and the powerful images and programs that you see on your television. We are proud that our strategic partner, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and our parent company, Viacom, have taken this model to another level with "Know HIV/AIDS," which was launched earlier this year. We are most proud, however, of the countless lives the Rap-It-Up Campaign has positively impacted within our community. We thank you for acknowledging our efforts.

I accept this award on behalf of the Rap-It-Up producers, talent, creative team, and partner organizations — but I also accept it on behalf of those in the community who have participated in the road tours, the teen forums, the Rap-It-Up hotline, the workplace training, school curriculum and Web site.

I accept this award on behalf of those who have opened their minds to the Rap-It-Up message and have joined the fight against HIV/AIDs.

Last, I accept this award in honor of the great industry warrior, Joel Berger, and I am committed to continue to contribute our talent and resources in this critical fight.

We will defeat HIV and AIDS with the power of education. One day at a time. One viewer at a time. Together, we will "rap-it-up." —Debra L. Lee

End Discrimination Against People With AIDS/HIV

As we're gathered here tonight, I see a lot of familiar faces. I'm reminded of a time when our industry came together with similar strength, resolve and numbers when the Kaitz Foundation was established to address the issues of discrimination and equal opportunity for minorities in our industry.

Today, HIV/AIDS has become just as important an issue. We should not allow people with HIV/AIDS to suffer discrimination in our society. BET's Rap-It-Up commitment is our effort to educate the public about the evils of discrimination based on HIV/AIDS.

We're very grateful that Cable Positive and the industry deem what we've done worthy of recognition. —Robert L. Johnson