When we hear the name “Alicia Keys,” chances are, we think of the 14-time Grammy Award-winning musician, producer, actress, and author. But Alicia Keys is also much more than all that: she’s a powerful force for good in the fight against HIV/AIDS. She is the founder and a Global Ambassador for the non-profit, Keep a Child Alive (KCA), which provides life-saving treatments, resources, and education to children and families with HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.
Next week marks the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day, and this year Keys is calling for a particular goal within the theme of “Getting to Zero.” Keys says that zero is the ultimate goal we fight for, but this year she’s pushing for a sub-theme: “Getting to Zero: With Women and Girls.”
Keys says women have, for too long, “shouldered the burden” of HIV/AIDS and that the time has come to stand up for the rights of those women and ultimately help eradicate HIV/AIDS. Women represent about sixty percent of Africans living with HIV, those aged 15-24 are eight times more likely than men to be living with HIV, and young women represent 72% of new infections. This data is alarming and sobering.
And the truth is, many of the reasons behind this huge disparity relate to women’s rights as a whole. Women are denied proper healthcare to prevent passing on HIV/AIDS to their children, and many cannot get treatment they need because of powerlessness in the family. Young girls are often sexually abused at school by older men, too afraid of losing their chance at education to speak up. Women may be afraid of provoking violence by requesting condom use. The list goes on and on.
Keys calls for empowerment of these women. Doing so, she says, will guarantee their rights, “so they can protect themselves from infection, overcome stigma, and gain access to treatment and care.” Only then will we be able to stop the vicious cycle HIV/AIDS has become.