×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Trip to South Africa Gave Alicia Keys ‘a New Purpose’ to Launch Keep a Child Alive

Alicia Keys’ first trip to South Africa 16 years ago ignited the singer-songwriter’s passion for helping people in need. There to perform at a charity concert in Cape Town as part of MTV’s HIV prevention and awareness initiative, Staying Alive, she toured the country meeting survivors of the epidemic. In Soweto, Keys came face-to-face with children orphaned by AIDS who were forced to raise their younger siblings — effectively becoming the heads of their households.

“They were so powerful and poetic,” Key says. “They wanted to change everything, like, ‘This will never be my children.’”

The performer describes how many of the girls in this position, some as young as 13, were pushed into the sex trade just to survive. Keys, 21 at the time, saw herself in them. “They were just a few years younger than me. So I was like, ‘What if this was happening to me, and nobody listened to me, nobody cared?” She came back ready to do something. The trip “gave me a new purpose. I was like, if we could do something, I’m in.”

Alicia Keys Variety Power of Women NY Cover 2018
CREDIT: Brigitte Lacombe for Variety

Shortly thereafter, in 2003, Keys co-founded Keep a Child Alive with activist Leigh Blake. The intensely community-oriented charity supports six grassroots organizations throughout Africa and one in India, with an eye to holistic approaches that address the socioeconomic roots of the epidemic and honor individuals with the disease.

The charity serves 70,000 people annually. Its milestones include getting generic, affordable AIDS medications to needy populations and piloting innovative approaches to region-specific issues. Its mission: No new infections. No barriers to treatment. No discrimination.

Keys designed the Blue Roof Wellness Centre in Durban, South Africa. The comprehensive clinic has a community garden, short- and long-term facilities and educational programs that empower people living with HIV. “One of our dreams is to make [Blue Roof] to scale, so that we can bring it anywhere across the continent,” she says. Other programs funded by KCA include Operation Bobbi Bear, which zeroes in on children who have been sexually abused and acts as quickly as possible to prevent infection. The methodology, which asks the children to describe their trauma through a stuffed bear, is remarkably effective.

It doesn’t escape Keys that many of the people disproportionately affected by AIDS are women. In sub-Saharan Africa, where all of Keep a Child Alive’s African programs are located, young women are five times more likely to have HIV than young men. AIDS is the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age; a young woman becomes infected with HIV every minute. Keys wants to give these individuals control over their lives. “We know that when we empower women,” she says, “the entire community will change.”

More Music

  • Spice Girls Open Reunion Tour in

    Spice Girls Open European Reunion Tour With Inclusivity Proclamations, Sound Issues

    Posh Spice chose not to be included, but there was a lot of other inclusivity to go around as the four other Spice Girls opened their reunion tour in Dublin Friday night. “We welcome all ages, all races, all gender identifies, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations, all religions and beliefs, all abilities,” they [...]

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Billie Eilish

    Billie Eilish Fans to Receive Perks Due to Chicago Venue Change

    Billie Eilish and her music agents at Paradigm are experiencing what most would call a first class problem. The demand to see the 17-year-old singer live has prompted a change of venue for her June 9 show in Chicago — from the 5,000-capacity Aragon Ballroom to the 20,000-plus-seat United Center arena. The last-minute venue change [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres Buys Adam Levine’s Beverly

    Adam Levine Cashes in on Sale of Max Mutchnick’s Former Mansion to Ellen DeGeneres

    Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo have sold a baronial Beverly Hills mansion with an illustrious chain of ownership for a reported $45 million to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The mainstream radio rock star, who, it was announced Friday, will not to return as a coach on “The Voice,” and the Namibian-born Victoria’s Secret [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content