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Alicia Keys Campaigns to Educate Women on HIV

Update Date: Apr 16, 2013 04:54 PM EDT
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Alicia Keys is working with the Kaiser Family Foundation on a global campaign to raise awareness of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Keys recently met with women who are part of an HIV program at United Medical Center in Washington, D.C. on Monday to discuss their experiences with the virus, including the fear and stigma associated with the disease.

The Grammy Award winning singer has previously traveled to Africa and India to meet women who have HIV. She said she felt connected to these women because ''they looked like they could be my sister, or they could be my aunt, or they could be my cousin.''

Keys launched the "Empowered" campaign last month, hoping to bridge the gap between domestic and international conversations about the virus, according to the Associated Press. The goal is to educate women about HIV and provide grants to community-based projects that will do so.

In the United States, 1.1 million people are living with HIV, one in four of whom are women. Women of color account for about two-thirds of new HIV infections among women, according to Kaiser.

 ''Black women are disproportionally affected, making up for the majority of all new infections,'' Keys said. ''That's a must-have conversation.''

"Empowered" includes outreach through public service ads, social media and community programs. The campaign encourages women to learn about HIV and AIDS, talk with family and friends, protect themselves and loved ones, get tested, prevent spreading the disease and stay on treatment.

Together with Kaiser and AIDS United, Keys is leading the Empowered Community Grants program that will give up to $25,000 grants to community-level projects that focus on women and HIV.

''To identify those community-based organizations is a very important part of the puzzle,'' Keys said.

Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior advisor who has worked with Keys in the past on women and health issues, said she supports ''Empowered'' because it is part of President Barack Obama's vision for comprehensive health.

''You really have to have a holistic and comprehensive approach to this and what's so special about what Alicia is doing now is that it will highlight how every single person can play a role in this,'' Jarrett said.

"Empowered" is scheduled to run for five years. The campaign will annually publish a report on women's experiences with HIV and AIDS and examine cultural changes regarding education, misconceptions and the stigma associated with the disease.

Keys is the co-founder of Keep a Child Alive, which provides AIDS treatment, food and other support to children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa and India. She has been an advocate for many underserved countries for more than a decade. 

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