October 9, 2009
Travis McCoy, lead singer of the hip-hop/rock band Gym Class Heroes, is this year's special ambassador for MTV's Staying Alive Foundation (SAF), a youth-focused HIV/AIDS prevention campaign. The disease has touched him personally, having lost someone he loved to AIDS more than 15 years ago.
At the time, McCoy was 11 or 12 and not only saddened but fearful: "You think, 'Oh no, we've shared kitchen utensils. Will the kids at school know?'" When he learned through a school-based health program how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, "I had this clarity and relief, but also enormous guilt."
As ambassador, McCoy traveled to South Africa, India, and the Philippines this June. There he met young people overcoming enormous odds in the battle against HIV/AIDS who are recipients of $12,000 SAF grants for their efforts. His tour is documented on the Web site www.theunbeatentrack.com, a Twitter feed, a Huffington Post blog and other online media. It will also be the subject of a documentary film that will air on all 166 MTV channels, reaching 578 million households worldwide, on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1. McCoy is writing and producing a song about his experiences that will be released that day.
"Kids look up to my band, and if I can get them to buy a video game or particular brand of Nikes, then I hope I can get them to buy a box of condoms ... I hope that when people see this documentary, it'll make them realize they can do something, whether in their own home, or their community, or on a bigger scale," said McCoy.
SAF was started in 1998. Since 2004, it has given out 161 grants in 48 countries, all to people ages 18-29.