Rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges discussed AIDS prevention with 400 students in the Marvin Center Friday for the YouthAIDS “Kick Me” campaign.
“I’m here to save lives,” said the Grammy-winning artist and actor Friday, which was World AIDS Day.
Ludacris’ message focused primarily on the need to practice safe sex and take regular HIV tests.
“What’s important is that you protect yourselves,” he told the audience.
Referring to AIDS testing, he said “It takes all of 10 minutes. You need to know your status so you can be part of the solution, not the problem.”
Ludacris was joined on stage by YouthAIDS representative Cristina Broker.
“We need your help to help us save the world,” she told the crowd. “I think that everyone in here can make a difference.”
Ludacris also responded to critics who say that his music glorifies un-safe sex.
“If you listen to my music, people can say that I do talk about sex sometimes. Just because (safe sex) isn’t said, doesn’t mean I don’t practice safe sex on my own,” he said in an interview before the event.
“That being said, I’m definitely thinking of a way to try to incorporate getting people aware, whether it be having a sticker on the inside of an album, or maybe talking about it in a song,” he added.
Ludacris also said it was significant to have D.C. be the last stop in his campaign because of the District’s high percentage of HIV-positive citizens.
“Washington D.C. is very important to me because this is a problem affecting our community, especially the African-American community here in D.C.,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every 20 D.C. residents is infected with HIV, a rate ten times the national average.
While Ludacris’ foundation works to raise money for a variety of charities, the tour was his first time working on any HIV/AIDS initiative. He said that he was inspired to take up the cause after traveling to South Africa and meeting several HIV-positive kids.
“(The trip to South Africa) made me want to do as much as I could,” he said.
GW was Ludacris’ fourth and final appearance, having appeared earlier this week at UCLA, Northwestern and New York University. The Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity sponsored his appearances. GW’s chapter of the fraternity raised nearly $30,000, representatives said, with other Greek-letter organizations adding in another $4,000.
Sigma Phi Epsilon senior Sean Flaherty said the figure raised by his chapter is the largest ever single-event donation from any GW sorority or fraternity.
Student reaction to Ludacris’ appearance was mixed.
“I thought he was good,” said sophomore Evan Achiron, a member of Phi Sigma Epsilon. “It was great that we could bring a celebrity like Ludacris to GW for a good cause.”
Junior Shannon Holmes, president of the GW Black Student Union, said she was not impressed with the information presented.
“It seemed as though (Ludacris and Broker) were either uninformed or misinformed,” she said. “I asked a question about AIDS myths versus facts, and they didn’t respond with any facts. I thought they gave ambivalent responses to most questions.”
James Silk, a Sigma Phi Epsilon member and intern at YouthAIDS, defended Ludacris’ performance.
“He’s an entertainer, and it’s tough to draw the line on what you say to the public,” Silk said. “He was here to talk to students about sex and how they can protect themselves from AIDS.”
While Ludacris has not planned any future appearances to spread AIDS awareness, he said that the past week had been a positive experience.
“I’ve learned a lot by being on this tour, and I know the voice I have as a celebrity,” the rapper said. “Kids don’t always listen to their parents, but they might listen to Ludacris.”