For Children in Africa, Alicia Keys Pulls Hope Out of Pain
Advocacy After witnessing the deaths of those who could not afford treatment for HIV in South Africa, the iconic vocalist took action.
Alicia Keys is more than just a Grammy-winning singer, songwriter or coach on “The Voice.” She’s also the co-founder of Keep A Child Alive, with a mission to realize the end of AIDS for children and families by combating the physical, social and economic impacts of HIV.
Taking a stand
Since its creation in 2003, the initiative has touched the lives of more than 300,000 children and families in India and Africa.
Keys’ first journey to South Africa opened her eyes to the need. Sub-Saharan Africa has been the hardest hit, with 70 percent of the 37 million people living with HIV worldwide located there.
The singer and advocate found that people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa were needlessly dying because they could not afford the expensive drugs to treat the virus. “It's crazy to me that AIDS is the number one killer of adolescents in Africa,” says Keys.
The number saved
“I was so frustrated by this injustice. It was painful to think that just because you were born into a certain economic circumstance you weren't valuable enough to deserve to live,” she adds. “Now there are 18.2 million people on treatment, and I'm proud to say my organization, Keep a Child Alive, has been a part of this movement.”
Treatment keeps people healthy, but also fosters prevention because if a pregnant woman with HIV is on treatment, she won’t transmit the virus to the baby. Also, the risk of the virus being transmitted sexually from someone undergoing treatment is minimal — especially with protection.
“I believe it's possible to end AIDS; we have the tools, we know what to do,” sums Keys, who hosts an annual fundraiser to benefit Keep A Child Alive in addition to her day-to-day efforts.
She calls for the U.S. government, the biggest funder of AIDS response in Africa, to maintain its support. “It's been an amazingly successful program that Americans can be proud of,” says Keys. “And I hope the president-elect will continue the U.S. government support.”