Alicia Keys Keeps Children Alive

Stacy Matson | Celebrity Health
Alicia Keys Keeps Children Alive

image by: jerone2

Africa is heavily affected by HIV and AIDS. The social impact is most evident in Africa’s growing orphan population. Co-founded by Alicia Keys “Keep a Child Alive” is making a difference

Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys

Most people know Alicia Keys for her distinctive music – a blending of R & B, hip hop and classical styles. She is an accomplished pianist who writes songs about love, heartbreak and female empowerment. Her first album, Songs in A Minor, went platinum 6 times. In 2001 she was simultaneously the best-selling new artist and the best-selling R & B artist and she was only 21 years old. Worldwide she’s sold over 30 million albums and won 11 Grammy Awards. But she is so much more than the awards and the music. She’s also a lifesaver. Literally.

Alicia Keys is not your typical Hollywood celebrity. She cares more about how she can use her fame to help the sick and underserved populations of the world. Her primary focus is the AIDS epidemic in Africa and India.  While visiting Africa in 2003 Keys witnessed first hand the devastating impact AIDS can have when left unchecked; orphaning children, destroying families, devastating communities, and stifling economic growth. Immediately following that trip Keys and her friend Leigh Blake co-founded “Keep a Child Alive” and together have become two of the most powerful women in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.  

Keep a Child Alive (KCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing life-saving anti-retroviral medicines, healthcare and support services to children and families whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. So far, the group has saved an estimated 45,000 lives by getting these drugs to the people who need them most.  The ultimate goal for Keep a Child Alive is to provide after care and support to the orphaned children left behind. 

The task KCA has taken on is daunting; With approximately 12% of the world's population, Africa is estimated to have more than 60% of the AIDS-infected population. In 2007 approximately 1.5 million people died from AIDS and 1.9 million people became newly infected with HIV. Right now in Africa, almost one-in-three women aged 25-29, and over a quarter of men aged 30-34, are living with HIV.  Additionally, an estimated 280,000 children under 15 are living with HIV.  Sadly for these children, the virus was unintentionally transmitted by the mother.

Typically, half of all people with HIV become infected before they are 25, developing AIDS and dying by the time they are 35, leaving behind a generation of children to be raised by their grandparents, other adult relatives, or left on their own in child-headed households.  There are approximately 12 million children in South Africa orphaned by AIDS and the ability of the extended family to cope with this additional financial and emotional burden is stretched very thin or, in many instances, nonexistent. 

Johanna McGeary author of 'Death Stalks A Continent' describes the enormity of the orphan issue, “Society's fittest, not its frailest, are the ones who die, leaving the old and the children behind. You cannot define risk groups: everyone who is sexually active is at risk. Babies too, (are) unwittingly infected by mothers. Barely a single family remains untouched.” Consequently, the HIV-infected child is born into a family where the virus may have already had a severe impact on health, income, education and the ability to care for each other.  

Some of the services provided by KCA include the Agape Child Care Centre, a place where 60 orphaned children have found a family and a home; for some of these children it’s the first they have ever known.  The Centreville Clinic and the Alive Medical Services Clinic provide anti-retroviral treatments, prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, nutritional support, counseling, and testing services to more than 1,000 adults and children.

Finally, the Chandrakal Orphanage, home to 60 HIV positive children who have survived everything from living on the streets, abandonment on trains by family, to being quarantined and isolated in village huts. Keep a Child Alive has made it possible for these children to live in peace at this new orphanage. For the first time, they eat well-balanced meals, go to school, and experience a normal life.

The African AIDS epidemic has been called “the genocide of a generation” and the survivors will suffer financial and emotional consequences that will be far reaching for many years to come. Alicia Keys summarizes her passion, “Helping keep a child, or mother, or father or brother, or sister stay alive, means turning the worst epidemic of our lifetime into the greatest victory of our generation…It's crazy how you can change the lives of people forever for the price of a pair of shoes".  You can see more of her work in the documentary - Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland

Keep a Child Alive has made it possible for children to live in peace. For the first time, they eat well-balanced meals, go to school, and experience a normal life. Alicia Keys is indeed helping to create A Healthier World.

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.

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