Alicia Keys Is Standing Up to an Epidemic That's Killing Kids
By Max Chafkin
Who: Alicia Keys, Cofounder, Keep a Child Alive
Day Job: Singer-songwriter.
Wake-Up Call: Twelve years ago, near the end of her first world tour, Alicia Keys, now 33, found herself in a room full of South African teens. Some were infected with HIV; others had family who were affected. "I felt like I was looking at my own reflection," she recalls. "They were around my age, going through life just like me—looking for love, but wondering how they could continue. 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."
Proof Positive: Her foundation, Keep a Child Alive, has raised about $25 million to provide more than 300,000 people in Africa and India with access to lifesaving drugs, nutritious food, and care. "Seeing a child who was only predicted to live to age 2, and now they're 15 … wow," Keys says.
Affecting Moment: At an AIDS conference in the U.S.—where infection rates remain disturbingly high, especially among black women—Keys met Kym, who had contracted the virus from her husband. He'd been too ashamed to seek medical help, or even to tell her he had the disease. "They could have still had a relationship, and he could have not exposed her," says Keys. Instead, Kym learned she'd been infected just before he died. Last year, Keys helped launch the Empowered campaign to encourage women to get tested and, if necessary, treated. Says Keys, "This is not a death sentence. We can beat this thing."
Photo via AFP/Getty Images