The HIV/AID pandemic continues to hit the Black community hardest. It's a problem, and perhaps, there is no other celebrity who knows this better than superstar Alicia Keys, who continuously promotes HIV/AIDS awareness. Recently, the Keep a Child Alive creator joined a panel of other stars, local health educators, religious leaders and other advocates at a Greater Than AIDS event at Harlem Hospital to discuss HIV's devastating impact on the Black community and what we must do together to see future change.
Studies show the Black community continues to be more disproportionately affected than any other group in America. Blacks account for the most new HIV infections and more HIV related deaths than any other group. If the trend continues, the number of Black women who will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime will be 1 in 32. For men, the statistic swells to 1 in 16. Right now, more than 1.1 million people are currently living with HIV, yet only one in five know the status.
These statistics are alarming and Keys believes that helping to get the message out within our communities is a vital step towards change. She says women can do their part to ensure that future HIV infection rates hit an all-time low. Women hold power when it comes to enforcing safe sexual activity, but they simply need to be empowered to bring up HIV/AIDS with their partners. "As women, we are the most powerful beings on the whole planet earth," Keys shared. "Once we know that, then we can use it. As a woman, once we know the power, then we can lead it anywhere you want it to go. We can say, 'You know what? Here's my standards. Here's the test you have to pass,'" said Keys, implying that women should insist that their partners take an HIV test before they become sexually active. "[We] have to hold that type of regard for ourselves," she added. "When you make it difficult, when you make people work for what they get, they appreciate it."
As fellow panelist Russell Simmons, echoed, the work can be as simple as spreading the message to your friends and family. "We have this mentality that you have to have x amount of dollars or x amount of celebrity to do anything," said Keys. "That's not the case. We don't have to wait for somebody else to go be our champion. We can very well do it ourselves in a small group… If it's four of your homegirls, and you ask, 'What do you think?' That alone starts to spawn a movement."
Other panelists firmly suggest getting tested as part of your routine doctor visits. However, it should be noted that HIV tests do not detect your current status, but your status three months prior to taking the test. More importantly, although getting tested is both wise and affective, it is not a substitute for STD prevention. "Protect yourself," said Keys. "Use a condom. It's all good."
The superstar believes we're on the verge of having the first AIDS-free-generation, but we can't get there unless we start the dialogue today. "Let's be our own advocates," said the 16-time Grammy winner. "Let's begin to see what we want. We're not going to allow our communities to silently die off. "