Turns out, the performance had a special element of activism. GLAAD tweeted out words of praise for the star after Mardrequs Harris of the Southern AIDS Coalition, who was onstage with Lil Nas X at the VMAs, sported a jacket with the number 433,816 in red. That represents “the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. South” as of 2015.
Red also represents the universal color of awareness and support for HIV.
“This experience was surreal!” Harris said in a press statement of the performance. “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.”
Lil Nas X retweeted the message and added a sweet pink heart emoji in support.
Lil Nas X has been a longtime advocate for HIV/AIDs education. Each song on his upcoming Sept. 17 album Montero has listed a charity or group that fans can donate to, including 13 HIV organizations that are part of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative, which made a more than $100 million commitment over 10 years to support hundreds organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.
In July, following the release of the “Industry Baby” music video, the artist also slammed political analyst Boyce D. Watkins who claimed that Nas is “marketing sexual irresponsibility that’s causing young men to die from AIDS.”
“y’all be silent as hell when n—-s dedicate their entire music catalogue to rapping about sleeping with multiple women,” Nas responded. “but when i do anything remotely sexual i’m ‘being sexually irresponsible’ & ‘causing more men to die from aids’ y’all hate gay ppl and don’t hide it.”