President Obama, Alicia Keys, Common and more
With World AIDS Day here, we wanted to give props to some of our favorite black celebrities who have advocated for people living with HIV/AIDS and have helped spread awareness about the epidemic.
President Barack Obama will go down in history for having many firsts, but many people do not know that he was the first U.S. president to create a National HIV/AIDS Strategy. In 2010 he created this federal initiative with the goal to reduce new HIV infections by 25 percent by the year 2015. He also started a gender, violence and HIV initiative in 2012.
Since 2002, Grammy Award-winning singer Alicia Keys has made HIV/AIDS in Africa a top priority. She helped launch the organization Keep a Child Alive, which provides lifesaving medications for Africans living with HIV/AIDS. Recently, Keys and the Kaiser Family Foundation created Empowered, a new program for women with HIV living in the U.S.
In 2005, the socially conscious lyricist Common joined forces with the Kaiser Family Foundation for Know is Testing, an HIV/AIDS testing campaign. “I’ve witnessed firsthand the effects of HIV/AIDS and realized the difference self-love and support from the community can make,” Common said. “I wanted to share myself and my talents to help open the eyes and hearts of young people to the importance of testing.”
Since 1996, black celebs including Lil’ Kim, Eve, Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige and now Rihanna have lent their faces to MAC’s Viva Glam Campaign. Each year the cosmetics company releases a new lipstick/lipglass shade where all proceeds go to the MAC AIDS Fund, an organization that helps people infected by HIV/AIDS around the world.
Actor Blair Underwood has worked so hard over the years doing HIV/AIDS work—there’s even clinic named after him in D.C. In 2009, he participated in the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s “Man Up” campaign that aimed to encourage more African-American men to get tested for HIV/AIDS.
Since the epidemic first hit NYC in the ’80s, Broadway and television star Sheryl Lee Ralph has been a staunch advocate. In 1990 she started her own organization, the DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware) Foundation. For the past two decades she’s hosted the annual DIVAS Simply Singing! event to raise money for her organization.
Since his own diagnosis in 1991, Magic Johnson, along with his wife, Cookie, has played a major role in AIDS awareness in the black community. That same year, the couple started the Magic Johnson Foundation to reach urban youth. The two have also toured around the country, speaking on numerous talk shows and at events.
In 2008, Grammy-winning singer and former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland was MTV’s Staying Alive‘s first ambassador. Rowland went to Kenya to meet children affected by HIV/AIDS. “You could take a situation like having HIV and think of it as having a disability and think of it as something that is going to bring you down,” said Rowland, “but I have met kids and young people that are just so inspiring. They inspire me.”
For more about World AIDS Day and celebrity advocates, go to BET.com.