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World AIDS Day: Madonna’s Documentary on Malawi Airs Tonight

Say what you want about Madonna: Her response to the AIDS crisis has always been immediate and direct.

Though she is best known for her public reactions–appearing at an AIDS Project Los Angeles fund raising fashion show, flashing her breasts to the approving roar of the crowd as she strolled the catwalk in Gaultier; promoting safe sex as part of her stage show tours and in her book Sex; recording public service announcements; auctioning off her costumes to raise money for AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa; and producing and narrating the documentary on HIV in Malawi, I Am Because We Are which airs tonight at 9pm EST on the Sundance Channel–the star has also given of her private time and money with estimates of her donations to HIV/AIDS care and research reaching into the millions.

In 1986, Madonna lost one of her closest friends, Martin Burgyone to AIDS. During his year-long illness she supported him both emotionally and financially, visiting him frequently and providing him with close to $100,000 to cover rent and medical costs, as well as bringing him experimental drugs from Mexico. Burgoyne’s death led to her to speak out loudly about the stigma of HIV/AIDS. Her activism was further spurred by the deaths of friend artist Keith Haring and her ballet teacher and mentor, Christopher Flynn, who both died of AIDS in 1990.

Tonight the Sundance Channel premiers the Madonna-produced and -narrated documentary I Am Because We Are, directed by Nathan Rissman. The moving film focuses on some of the 1 million Malawi children who are orphaned because of AIDS. As Madonna leads the viewer through stories involving these children, she spotlights leading experts such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, economist Jeffrey Sachs and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Said Madonna in an AP interview:

If all you can do is live life in your world in a way that shows you are responsible for the people around you, that’s a course of action. People can be of service in large ways and small.

Which is a modern version of her safe-sex slogan from the 80s:

Hold on, don’t be silly. Put a rubber on your willy!

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.