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Grammy Winner Common, MTV, and Kaiser Family Foundation Launch Lyrics Contest to Promote HIV Testing

Young People Compete By Submitting Original Lyrics About the Importance of Getting Tested

Common to Perform Winning Entry on MTV2, mtvU, and

NEW YORK, Feb. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, hip-hop artist and actor Common, in collaboration with It's Your (Sex) Life, a public information partnership between the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV, and the Common Ground Foundation, with support from Youth Speaks, is launching "A Minute" - a new lyrics contest to encourage young people to get tested for HIV. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HIV screening for all adults and adolescents (ages 13-64) in the United States. Through this new initiative, Common, MTV and Kaiser are encouraging young people to take a minute to inform themselves and others about HIV testing.

The competition kicks off today on MTV's TRL (Total Request Live) and is intended to engage and inspire young people across the country to learn more about HIV and the importance of knowing your HIV status. The CDC estimates that among the more than one million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, approximately 1 in 4 do not know they are infected with the virus. The "A Minute" contest offers young people the opportunity to submit an original poem, lyrics, or writing that addresses why getting tested for HIV is important. The winning entry will be performed by Common in a special public service announcement (PSA) that will premiere on National HIV Testing Day (June 27, 2008) and air throughout the summer on MTV2 and mtvU, MTV's college network, as well as be available on demand at To learn more about the contest or apply, visit or

"It's important to know your status by getting tested because HIV/AIDS is taking a lot of lives in our community and around the world. I had an uncle succumb to HIV, so I've personally felt the impact of the disease," said Grammy Award winning artist Common. "Your lyrics can really have an affect on people's lives and I've seen it happen."

"The stigma surrounding HIV remains a barrier to many people getting tested," said Tina Hoff, Vice President and Director of Entertainment Media Partnerships at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "By normalizing HIV testing, this contest seeks to make getting tested a mark of empowerment not shame."

"This contest offers our audience an amazing way to bring their words to life - through Common's voice - and will serve as a powerful way to drive home the importance of getting tested," said Ian Rowe, VP of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnership, MTV. "Aside from being a groundbreaking artist and notable actor, Common has proven to be a true leader in the fight to break the stigma associated with HIV testing, and we're proud to partner with him on this cause."

Competition details:

Write original lyrics (can be spoken word, poetry, reggae, indie ... any musical voice that best represents your message).

Entries must be one minute or less when performed.

Entries must be submitted by March 27, 2008 and can be submitted in text, audio or video form. (Please include text with any audio or video entries.)

To learn more about the competition, visit or

"This is a great opportunity for young people to speak directly to their peers about such a critical issue," said James Kass, Founder and Executive Director of Youth Speaks. "By speaking creatively about getting tested, youth can educate each other without preaching. That's what people respond to."

MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation's over 10 year Emmy and Peabody Award-winning partnership has reached more than 100 million viewers on-air, yielded more than 1.2 million calls to the campaign's toll-free hotline (1-877-777-IYSL), and put informational guides in the hands of more than 450,000 young people. The backbone of the campaign is, a comprehensive online destination housed within, a new online community where young people, their friends and some of the biggest names in pop culture come together to effect positive social change.

The Think Community is dynamic, multimedia-driven and enables youth to easily learn more about the issues that matter to them most, share their opinions - via uploaded online videos, podcasts and blogs - and connect with others to make a difference. The site is one of the only to reward members for positive actions taken online or off, serving up chances to hang out with socially conscious celebs, access to exclusive MTV events, exposure on MTV and other national media outlets, as well as grants, scholarships and more. was built with the help of financial support and expertise from founding partners the Case Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Goldhirsh Foundation and MCJ Amelior Foundation. For more information or to build a profile and become involved, visit


The Common Ground Foundation is dedicated to the empowerment and development of urban youth in the United States through education. Additionally, our support and focus on HIV/AIDS prevention programs targeted toward youth and young adults reach beyond our national borders and serve communities throughout Africa.

The Common Ground Foundation was created by Hip Hop artist, actor and children's author Lonnie Rashid Lynn, known as "Common". Common's social-conscience message serves as inspiration for equality, opportunity and hope among youth in underserved communities. The Foundation is committed to empowering youth in urban neighborhoods and providing life skills needed to achieve their dreams.


The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit, private operating foundation dedicated to providing information and analysis on health issues to policymakers, the media, and the general public. It is not associated with Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries. Information on HIV/AIDS is available at, and a daily news summary report on developments in HIV/AIDS is available on, the Foundation's free health information service.


Since 1997, the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV have partnered on an extensive, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning public information campaign on HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and related sexual health issues. The partnership includes targeted public service advertisements (PSAs), entertainment and other special programming, news segments, and free resources, including an informational guide developed especially for the campaign, an extensive website and toll-free hotline 1-877-777-IYSL. The campaign was branded in 2005 under MTV's new pro-social initiative called "Think".


Founded in 1996 in San Francisco, Youth Speaks is the leading nonprofit presenter of spoken word performance, education and youth development programs in the country. Presenters of local and national youth poetry slams, festivals, reading series and more, Youth Speaks also publishes dozens of young writers through the imprint First Word Press, and offers a comprehensive slate of literary arts education programs to thousands of young writers and students each year. In addition to the many programs in the Bay Area, Youth Speaks had helped launch a spoken word movement in over 50 communities across the Unites States, presenting the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in a different city each year to spread the word. For more information, check out


MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), is one of the world's leading creators of programming and content across all media platforms. MTV Networks, with more than 130 channels worldwide, owns and operates the following television programming services - MTV: MUSIC TELEVISION, MTV2, VH1, mtvU, NICKELODEON, NICK at NITE, COMEDY CENTRAL, TV LAND, SPIKE TV, CMT, NOGGIN, VH1 CLASSIC, LOGO, MTVN INTERNATIONAL and THE DIGITAL SUITE FROM MTV NETWORKS, a package of 13 digital services, all of which are trademarks of MTV Networks. MTV Networks connects with its audiences through its robust consumer products businesses and its more than 300 interactive properties worldwide, including online, broadband, wireless and interactive television services. The network also has licensing agreements, joint ventures, and syndication deals whereby all of its programming services can be seen worldwide.

SOURCE Kaiser Family Foundation
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