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AIDS concerts with all the world as audience

London, Oct. 3 (Reuters): The pop music channel MTV, bidding for a world audience of at least two billion people, announced plans today for concerts in Cape Town and Seattle to mark World AIDS Day on December 1.

Grammy award winner Alicia Keys, who is to take to the stage in South Africa on November 23, said: “I hope the global broadcast of the concert encourages young people to understand that HIV/AIDS is preventable.”

The multi-platinum acts Missy Elliott and Dave Matthews will headline the Seattle concert on November 7.

Both will be edited together and put out, free of commercials, on World AIDS Day.

Computer billionaire Bill Gates, whose foundation is sponsoring the concerts along with Levi Strauss jeans and his fellow Microsoft founder Paul Allen, warned that up to 100 million people worldwide could be infected with HIV by 2005.

“We can’t change the past but we can change the future as long as we start now,” he said.

Southern Africa was a crucial area to concentrate on as one of the worst hit in the world. “Half of all 15 year-olds in South Africa and Zimbabwe will lose their lives to AIDS,” he added in a statement to Reuters.

A spokesman for MTV, which is owned by media giant Viacom Inc , said: “It is estimated the concert will be seen by a potential global audience of more than two billion people.” It is being offered free to broadcasters worldwide.

The hedonistic world of pop may be the ultimate symbol of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll but MTV believes it can still educate its young audience in between the sexy videos.

”We hope to unite young people across the globe and actively engage them in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said MTV Networks International President Bill Roedy. The concerts are part of a long running AIDS campaign by the international cable network in which it tries to pick stars to whom kids can relate.

Hosts for its annual Staying Alive documentary on AIDS have ranged from Latin heart-throb Ricky Martin to hip hop superstar Sean P. Diddy Combs. This year's documentary, which looks at AIDS around the world from Cambodia to Latvia, will be hosted by Mary J. Blige.

Former US President Bill Clinton, co-chairman of the International AIDS Trust, joined an informal taping of the latest MTV documentary at the Barcelona AIDS summit in July.

His message was a stark one: The AIDS epidemic is the world’s single biggest problem, barring nuclear war.

“For the first time in history, the world has to take responsibility for a global health crisis,” he told a youth forum at the world’s biggest AIDS conference.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world's largest relief organisation, on Tuesday launched a $14 million campaign to fight AIDS in 10 southern African states. The agency said that the campaign would run for five years and focus on care for AIDS sufferers in their own homes.

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