Everyone mourned George Michael’s death in December last year. Not only was he a mesmerising singer and performer who wrote hits that still resonate with teenagers today, but he was also a generous and caring individual.
Here at the MTV Staying Alive Foundation we were devastated to hear about his death. George Michael was a huge supporter of our work and our very first contributor. He was deeply affected by the HIV epidemic, as his former partner died of an AIDS-related illness in 1995 – it was an issue that was very close to his heart.
George Michael hosted our 1998 International Emmy award-winning documentary about young people affected and infected with HIV, called ‘Staying Alive’ – a brave move at a time when HIV was still hugely stigmatised. His involvement not only encouraged many people to talk openly about the epidemic but also created a stepping stone for MTV Staying Alive. In fact, MTV Staying Alive would not be where it is today if it weren’t for George Michael.
‘Staying Alive’ followed six young people whose lives had been affected by HIV and AIDS, looking at the lives of young people from Zambia, the Netherlands, US, Brazil, India and Ukraine.
Although the six individuals each had a different story to tell, they had one thing in common: they were all tackling the spread of HIV in their communities in their own way and inspired others to do the same.
Things have improved considerably since the ‘Staying Alive’ documentary. More and better drugs are available, enabling those who are HIV positive to live long and healthy lives. And the overall rates of new HIV infections have gone down. BUT the epidemic is far from over. On the contrary: every 2 minutes an adolescent is newly infected with HIV. And in 2015, over 100 adolescents died of HIV every day.
There remains a huge amount of work to be done, but we know that we have the tools to reach those left behind.
MTV Staying Alive will continue to reach out to young people all over the world, and work towards a future where no young person contracts HIV or dies from AIDS.