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Health and Wellness: Alicia Keys

Keep a Child Alive

“Keep a Child Alive may be a baby, but it’s doing really big work,” says the org’s global ambassador and co-founder, Alicia Keys. “We started seven years ago and now we serve 50,000 people. That’s 50,000 more lives that are going to be lived.”

Over the years, Keys has seen the building of pediatric wings and orphanages in Uganda, Kenya, Johannesburg and Durban, South Africa. “That’s such a huge feat,” she continues. “It didn’t exist when we started and wouldn’t exist had we not started. It’s so inspiring to go to Africa and see all the things that exist now that didn’t exist before.”

In 2005, KCA bought the Blue Roof Nightclub in Durban. “That next year, we were able to turn it into a full-service clinic, the Blue Roof Clinic. If people need beds, they can stay there. If they need legal aid, they can get that there. They can pick up their medicine there. It’s a community-based situation. The last time I went to Durban, it was an empty building that we had a dream about. Now it’s functioning.”

Keep a Child Alive is dedicated to providing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment and support services to children and their families with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

In May 2008, Keys launched the KCA texting campaign on her U.S. tour. During audience shout-outs, she raised more than $50,000. And on May 13, she appeared on “American Idol,” asking viewers to text the org’s hotline. She raised more than $450,000. “No one’s ever done that before,” says Keys. “We’re out in front of doing new innovative things that are out of the box to help our cause.

“We want to expand to India,” adds Keys. “My co-founder, Leigh Blake, is there right now looking at different AIDS organizations.

“We’ve had a lot of breakthroughs. Seven years ago, the treatment for AIDS was so expensive that it wasn’t realistic for people to afford,” continues Keys. “Bill Clinton and the Global Clinton Initiative worked hard to create a generic medicine. That generic medicine makes it way easier to afford. Obviously, it’s still expensive, and there are a lot of people that still can’t afford it, which is where we come in.

“What I love about us is that we’re able to go directly to the people. No bureaucracy. It’s straight, direct, to the point.”

In the field

Dr. Pasquine Ogunsanya is the medical director of the Alive Medical Services, a Keep a Child Alive clinic in Namuwongo, Uganda. “We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Dr. Ogunsanya. “The center currently sees more than 2,800 patients monthly, an average of 93 patients daily. More than 95% of patients treated are HIV positive. An average of 160 children are immunized every month. And by July 8 of this year, the clinic had a total of 5,359 HIV-positive patients on HIV chronic care.

“Since KCA began its work in Uganda, there has been a great improvement,” adds Ogunsanya. “In fact, the clinic is rated as a center of medical excellence by the Ministry of Health. Since KCA began sponsoring this project, so many lives have been changed for the better. Hope and life have been given back to people who were otherwise considered dead.”

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