NEW YORK — Award-winning singer and songwriter, Alicia Keys, has recently become a humanitarian ambassador for the organization Keep a Child Alive. As part of the position, Keys promotes awareness of the extreme conditions that many children face in impoverished nations, especially those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Keep a Child Alive aims to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic by helping provide life-saving drugs for children. $1 per day provides a child with treatment, and nearly 100 percent of donations go directly to the cause.
Keys was inspired to get involved with the cause 12 years ago, when she participated in a gathering of South African teens affected by HIV. “I felt like I was looking at my own reflection,” she said. “They were around my age, going through life just like me—looking for love, but wondering how they could continue.”
Keys continued, “There was no way I could leave and pretend like I never saw it or act like I wasn’t changed. I remember feeling like, If I were them, I would wish someone would speak up for me about what’s going on.”
Since 2003, Keep a Child Alive has raised approximately 25 million dollars which has helped provide over 300,000 people access to essential HIV treatment, healthcare and nutritional food. The organization works in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa and India.
As a part of the campaign, Keys accompanied five American fans on a trip to South Africa. The five winners were chosen from over 24,000 contestants and were given the opportunity to witness the effects of AIDS in Johannesburg and Durban. The organization has recently released a documentary which follows Keys and the five participants on their journey to South Africa.
During the trip, Keys and Keep a Child Alive worked in these areas to help build clinics for AIDS victims. The group has made a significant impact on the lives of people in these areas as they worked to provide treatment to those outside of Durban where HIV/AIDS rates equal 40 percent, twice the national average.
Keep a Child Alive also promotes the importance of HIV testing for those living in disease-prone areas. In many of these places, citizens are either unaware of the importance of testing or are too ashamed to seek medical treatment, leading to more cases of infection. However, as an international ambassador, Keys has used her celebrity status to encourage HIV testing.
“There is such a stigma here and just because Alicia Keys put her name on this building, now it’s cool to go get tested. Now it’s cool to go get treatment,” said Keys’ song-writing partner and longstanding friend, Erika Rose.
The ambassador position has lead Keys to travel to Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. During these trips, the singer spoke to many young people who have been orphaned by AIDS and who are now the heads of their families. Along with the organization, Keys has acted as a source of hope for many of those affected by the AIDS epidemic.
“This is not a death sentence. We can beat this thing.” She says.
– Meagan Douches