We all know Alicia Keys as a powerful vocalist who calls herself a singer and songwriter but the part of her title that often goes unnoticed is that she also calls herself an AIDS activist and philanthropist.
HIV and AIDS are an epidemic that disproportionately affects Black women and one of the greatest challenges to overcoming the disease is that there is a lot of fear, ignorance and stigma surrounding the disease.
Having published many articles and blog posts about Black women’s health, I know first hand that a lot of women’s reaction to conversations about s*xual health and s*xually transmitted diseases is that the information is wrong, is being exaggerated or that they are being singed out and labeled.
Below, Alicia Keys talks about her journey from the time she first realized the seriousness of the HIV and AIDS epidemic and also became aware of how much it is affecting Black women up to when she became an activist:
I first became involved in the HIV/AIDS crisis in 2001, after a visit to Africa, where the epidemic is most prevalent and basic education and treatments are still not in reach for those most vulnerable to the disease. Following that visit, I co-founded an organization called Keep a Child Alive, an organization I proudly continue to partner with to this day.
For the past ten years, I’ve raised my voice on behalf of the women and children fighting for their lives. What’s striking to me, despite so many differences, is how many similarities unite us in this global fight to end HIV — that knowledge is the best way to overcome ignorance and fear, that courage is the best way to overcome stigma and shame, and that empowerment is the best way to overcome complacency.
We must recognize that women are the backbone of families and communities, and that is why I was particularly shocked and saddened when I first learned that of the more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV today — one in four is a woman. And worse yet, Black women have been disproportionately affected, accounting for a majority of new infections among women. We will never see an AIDS-free generation without harnessing the power and strength of women.
In Africa, mothers and daughters in the tiniest, most remote villages are taking steps to empower their communities to prevent the spread of the disease. Meanwhile in America, women like Eva, Cristina, Jen, Stephanie and Kym are becoming empowered in a different way — to change the stigma associated with an HIV diagnosis.
We know that HIV is both preventable and treatable, yet because of STIGMA women don’t talk about it openly, we don’t use protection, we don’t get tested, and we don’t stay on treatment. In addition to stigma, there are still far too many misconceptions when we think and talk about HIV.