MTV unveils Rubber Sing as Aids ambassador

MUMBAI: Fit Me baby One More Time! If You Wanna Rock Please Roll! These are among the words of cheeky and sage advice that music channel MTV's new Aids ambassador Rubber Sing for its viewers.On the occasion of World Aids Day 1 December 2006 MTV unveiled its plans to create awareness about the menace of Aids. Rubber Sing its ambassador is an animated character in the shape of a condom. By singing, and playing the guitar and offers advice in a way that is entertaining. The ambassador was unveiled by Hollywood actor Rupert Everett 'My Best Friends Wedding' who is also the UN ambassador for Aids and by MTV VJ Sophia.

MTV India VP, GM creative and content Ashish Patil says that the campaign is called 'Listen To Rubber Sing'. Creatives featuring him will air on the channel from 1-7 December 2006. He will also appear in radio spots on Red FM as well as in print. MTV is is also using outdoors in the form of bus backs, hoardings.

Online one has to choose a condom before one can enter the MTV India site. One can also get wallpapers, screensavers and words of advice. On the mobile one can SMS Rubber to 6882 for advice Patil says, "It is important that MTV not only defines a generation but also leads it. One half of MTV's target groups 15-24 in India are HIV infected. So it is important that we play our part in getting the word out. While MTV is not an expert on Aids we know how to talk to young people. We will also be conducting road shows in terms of our VJs visiting popular youth hangouts. Over the next week we will have special half hour programming from 4:30 - 5pm. On 1 December at 9:30 pm we will be doing a Zindagi Zindabad initiative which basically aired clips from our music summits.

"On air we will be having graphics, lower third innovations and bugs. For instance the channels logo has a ribbon. Our VJs will also mention the problem in shows they host. In an episode of our show Kya Baat Hai we have a sting operation of sorts. This sees an MTV employee pretending to be a client and asking a prostitute for a favour. Our show Super Select will also have messages inserted."

MTV VJs also appear in spots. One of them sees a VJ addressing the problem of men embarrassed of buying condoms. 'Do you want to die of embarrassment or do you want to die of Aids?' is the message. Another message attacks the misconception that Aids only affects homosexuals and prostitutes. Then how do you explain a five year old child dying of the infection? asks the message.

Everett pointed out that the best way to deal with the problem is to talk about it. "We have to fight the problem of Aids together. I know that in India it is considered taboo to talk about sex in some quarters.

This is something you'll got from the British. Not talking about sex is a British tradition and I am surprised to hear people say that it is an Indian tradition. If you look at India before the British landed here India was more open to dialogue on sex. In that sense as a Briton I feel a little guilty that some of the effects of the British Empire are still being felt. It would help if Bollywood stars got into the act of spreading the message. It would give a face to Aids and help get the message out to some conservatives who try to pretend that the problem does not exist. Having said not talking about Aids is something that America went through in the 1980s.

Throughout the Reagan era you never heard the Aids word. The only public personality who spoke was actress Elizabeth Taylor which is not surprising given that America is conservative."

When asked by this writer about the role a celebrity plays he pointed out that a celebrity helps get the message out that much faster. Of course having a celebrity makes the media more interested in what is going on. He also rebuffed the notion held be religious clerics that talking about sex is tantamount to propagating it. "Talking about sex helps demystify the subject. What might propagate sex is consumerism.By this I mean parents not having enough time for their kids and so feeling guilty allow them access to things like the internet.

"So you have nude photos appearing on a child's computer before he/she is mature enough. The problem with any religion is that clerics do not want to confront humanity as it is. They want to look at it as it should be - an idealised state. The other problem in India are your laws which make homosexuality illegal. So many of them have gone underground which it makes it that much more difficult to help them.Also I believe that legislation in India is going to change which will not only make the prostitute a criminal but also the client and the pimp. So that whole profession will go underground. So to reach out to them will that much more difficult."

In criticism of humanity as a whole he points out that Aids, which is an extraordinary disease, has shown humanity to be bigoted, judgemental and self-loathing."It is amazing how much we hate each other. Sometimes I feel that we would rather let a person with Aids die rather than approach him and offer help. That being said my aim is to at least prevent the next generation from getting it. We also need to get treatment in the form of drugs to more people. Right now as I understand it only a fraction of Indians infected with HIV are undergoing drug treatment."

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