Alicia Keys, Grammy Award-winning singer, made a recent trip to Washington D.C. to meet with women who participate in an HIV program at United Medical Center. Keys says she wants to raise awareness and spark a global conversation about HIV. There are approximate 34 million people living with HIV worldwide.
Keys met with the group at UMC in Washington to find out their experiences and stories of living with the HIV virus, and how they deal with it in their everyday lives. Keys has also travelled to Africa and India to meet and talk to women in that region who have HIV. She feels a connection to all the women that she’s met and states, “They looked like they could be my sister, or they could be my aunt, or they could be my cousin.”
Keys, in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation for “Empowered”, is working on a new campaign launched last month to help educate women about HIV and also provide grants to projects that will help reach that goal at the community level. According to Kaiser, of the 1.1 million people in the US that are living with HIV, one in four of those are women. Women of color make up about two-thirds of newly diagnosed HIV infections in women.
“Black women are disproportionally affected, making up for the majority of all new infections,” Keys said. “That’s a must-have conversation.”
The campaign will try to garner attention by using PSA’s, social media and community based programs. It will encourage women to educate themselves about HIV and AIDS, to communicate with their family and friends, to learn the importance of protection for themselves and their loved ones, to get tested, and to stay in their treatment program and understand how to help prevent the disease from spreading.
Keys will be the lead on the Empowered Community Grants program along with Kaiser and AIDS United that will donate up to $25,000 in grants to community based projects that will focus on HIV and women.
“To identify those community-based organizations is a very important part of the puzzle,” Keys said.
The new campaign will run for five years and will publish an annual report on the experiences women have with HIV and AIDS. It will also investigate cultural changes in education, and general misconceptions about the disease.
Keys is not new to the HIV and AIDS advocacy work. She is the co-founder of the organization Keep a Child Alive. The organization provides treatment, food, and support to families and children in Africa and India that are affected by HIV and AIDS.