Alicia Keys first learned about the devastating effects HIV can have on a person’s life when she was barely eight years old. In the meantime, she strives to raise awareness on the disease in South African communities and co-founded ‘Keep a Child Alive’ 12 years ago. But in a recent interview she said that the judgment and stigma around HIV/AIDS was still ‘so saddening.’
Keys learned about the disease when she was very young and a friend of her mother died. She knew that something horribly happened although her mother was helpless in explaining anything to her.
But the greatest impact the epidemic had on her was in 2003, when she agreed to an MTV invitation to South Africa to talk about AIDS and make people aware of the risks. She was 20 back then.
She recalls that she was at the beginning of her career, but what she saw in Africa completely changed her. She visited clinics where ill mothers gave birth to babies with HIV or AIDS. At that time most women didn’t know that if they were ill and breastfed their newborn would pass on the infection.
Most African mother wanted drugs to keep them alive so they can raise their children. But although the drugs were available, because they were poor they were sentenced to certain death. The injustice outraged and motivated the young girl, and when she returned to the U.S. she was set to make a difference.
Now she is working to connect with people at Keep a Child Alive. And she feels thankful that she receives so much love when she visits the sick abroad. In the meantime, she organizes a fundraiser in NYC on Nov. 5. Last year, she was able to raise $2.4 million.
Keys recently told reporters that when the epidemics first emerged people knew almost nothing about it. There was a lot of prejudice, and people tended to avoid patients that tested positive for fear that physical contact may get them sick.
Years later, however, things became clearer but “the stigma and judgment around it is so saddening,” the singer added. She also said that we should start making a difference with our own kids by teaching them to have compassion and fight the epidemic with love.
She also added that her maternity changed her perspective as well. In the past, she thought that having sick kids and no access to medicine or her being sick so her kids need to watch her die was beyond any imagination. But such things happen, every day, in poor countries.
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