This past Sunday, September 12, saw Lil Nas X become the first Black gay man to capture an MTV Video Music Award (VMA) for Video of the Year.

But the awards from MTV didn’t stop coming that night. The video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” also captured awards for Best Direction and Best Visual Effects.

When he took to the stage to accept his awards, the clearly surprised Lil Nas announced to the audience: “Okay, first I want to say thank you to the gay agenda. Let’s go get agenda!” He continued, thinking everyone that had worked on the video with him and wrapped by saying, “I love you guys so much, I will not take this for granted.”

This isn’t Lil Nas’ first winning streak with the VMAs. In 2019 he captured the Song of The Year VMA for “Old Town Road” and the video for the same song captured a best Direction VMA for “Calmatic,} as well as an MTV Video Play Award.

That same year “Old Town Road” re-ceived VMA nominations for Video of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Hip Hop, Best Art Direction, Best Song of Summer and Best Editing.

All of that is in addition to a long list of firsts for the young gay man, including a Grammy Award for Best Music Video and Best Pop Duo in 2019 for his remix of “Old Town Road” with Billy Ray Cyrus, a 2019 American Music Award, a 2020 Billboard Music Award, a controversial Country Music Association Award (2019) and a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist of the Year.

GLAAD and the Southern AIDS Coalition

GLAAD released an enthusiastic and educational response to Lil Nas’s success and efforts at the VMAs:

“Lil Nas X delivered an incredible performance, bringing his iconic music video to the stage. Mardrequs Harris, Southern AIDS Coalition’s Director of Community Investments, participated onstage during the performance. [Harris] wore the number 433,816 in red, representing the universal color of awareness and support for HIV, and the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. South as of 2015, which has increased substantially over the years.”

The Southern AIDS Coalition is a Coordinating Center for the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®, a more than $100 million commitment over 10 years to sup-port hundreds of organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.

Says Harris: “This experience was sur-real. Having the opportunity to share the stage with Lil Nas X was something I never would have imagined. And to have him use his platform to raise awareness about HIV stigma is invaluable to our work.”

The VMAs performance follows Lil Nas X’s announcement of the Montero baby registry timed with the September 17 release of his new album ‘Montero.’ Each song on the new album has listed a charity or group that fans can donate to, including 13 HIV organizations that are part of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®.

In its first four years, COMPASS has helped train nearly 14,000 people across the American South to become better advocates, combat stigma and educate communities across the region. 

Gilead COMPASS Initiative® organizations on the registry include: The Normal Anomaly (Houston, TX), Thrive SS (Atlanta, GA), Counter Narrative Project (Atlanta, GA), The Bros in Convo Initiative (Orlando, FL), Transinclusive Group (Wilton Manors, FL), Arianna’s Center (South Florida), Organización Latina de Trans en Texas (Houston, TX), CH Pier (Greenville, MS), What’s In The Mirror? (Austin, TX), Central Alabama Alliance Resource & Advocacy Center (Wetumka, AL), Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (GA/IN), Relationship Unleashed (Memphis, TN) and Compassionate Atlanta (GA).

More info on the organizations is at welcometomontero.com/babyregistry.

“When public figures like Lil Nas X — particularly those from the South — use their platforms to communicate HIV facts, it encourages a new generation to join this fight and to end this epidemic once and for all,” said Dafina Ward, Executive Director of the Southern AIDS Coalition, “COMPASS launched with the belief that those on the front lines of HIV in the Southern United States would work better together, empowering new leaders, reaching members of their communities, and improving their capacity to care for people living with or affected by HIV.”

A scene from ‘MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).’ Sony Video Screen Capture

“Lil Nas X continues to make music and LGBTQ history, this time by using the iconic VMAs stage to highlight HIV in the U.S. South, where HIV rates and HIV stigma plague our community despite advances in prevention and the fact that people with HIV today lead long, healthy lives and, when on proper medication, cannot transmit the virus,” said DaShawn Usher, Associate Director, Communities of Color at GLAAD. 

Southern AIDS Coalition, Wake Forest University’s Faith Coordinating Center, GLAAD and organizations in the Gilead COMPASS Initiative have shared the following HIV facts tied to Lil Nas’s VMAs performance and fundraising campaign:

  • HIV Is a Social Justice and Racial Justice Issue: Black Americans account for more HIV diagnoses (43 percent) and people living with HIV (42 percent) than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States. Black Americans are vulnerable to HIV because of a often racist structural barriers to resources like healthcare, education, employment and housing. The three groups most affected by HIV are Black gay men, Black cisgender women and transgender women of color.
  • HIV Treatment Works, U=U: People living with HIV, when on effective treatment, live long and healthy lives and cannot sexually transmit HIV, according to the CDC. When someone living with HIV receives effective treatment and follows regimens pre-scribed by their doctor, HIV becomes undetectable when tested. When HIV is undetectable, it is untransmittable: U=U (#UequalsU). 
  • HIV Prevention Works: HIV testing should be a part of regular medical screenings. The CDC recommends that every person ages 13-64 receive an HIV test. When a person takes a test and receives an HIV diagnosis, they can be linked to care and medication immediately to protect their own health and prevent passing on HIV to others.
  • Faith-Based HIV Stigma Hurts, and Spreads the Disease: With more than 10,000 congregations having members living with HIV, it is important for faith communities to take leadership in ad-dressing HIV stigma. Shaming people living with HIV or for being on medication to prevent HIV stops people from seeking the care they need and lets undiagnosed people pass on the virus.

In an interview published on PBS.org, Amit Paley, CEO and executive director at The Trevor Project spoke about Lil Nas’ commitments to helping others, particularly in the LGBTQ Community:

“The fact that he has been so open … he is really helping to de-stigmatize conversations that are too often shrouded in shame … It’s particularly inspiring to see someone who is Black and LGBTQ and proud and unapologetic,” said Paley, “And to see someone talk about their experiences and … talk about their art [as] part of their platform to make other people comfortable talking about the challenges they are going through.”

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David Aaron Moore

David Aaron Moore is a former editor of QNotes, serving in the role from 2003 to 2007. He is currently a contributing writer for QNotes. Moore is a native of North Carolina and the author of "Charlotte:...

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