Alicia Keys: Let's Fight HIV Together
By Alicia Keys and Cristina Jade Peña Special to CNN | 9/29/2013, noon
Editor's note: Alicia Keys is a 14-time Grammy award-winning musician, advocate for people with AIDS and co-founder and global ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, which supports partners in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and India that provide HIV care to children and their families. Cristina Jade Peña is a grad student at University of California, Berkeley, and a Keep a Child Alive consultant. She became an HIV/AIDS advocate and educator shortly after learning she had been born HIV-positive. This is the second in a series of columns CNN Opinion is publishing in association with the Skoll Foundation on people who are finding new ways to help solve the world's biggest problems.
(CNN) -- Bernadette's father died from AIDS complications when she was a child. Her mother never even knew he had HIV until she and her daughter tested positive years later.
Shocked and angry, Bernadette couldn't accept the news. She refused to take her medicine. Depressed and shut off from the world, Bernadette imagined she would soon die. Then, at the urging of her mother, she joined a Sunday support group for young people living with HIV.
Over time, she became engaged in youth activities and opened her heart to the others. Today, she is a youth peer educator at Women's Equity in Access to Care and Treatment, where she shares her experiences with other young people living with HIV, encouraging them to stay in school, take their medicine and work for a better future.
This is just one example of a brave story. And there are millions more:
The teenage girl who was orphaned and had to raise herself and her siblings; the young man who refused to be silenced by discrimination and disclosed his status to friends; or the young couple -- one HIV positive and the other not -- planning their future.
These stories speak to the pain, loss and challenges that HIV and AIDS have put upon this generation, but also to the triumph of what's possible when we come together.
We are part of a generation that has only known a world with HIV. The United Nations says that about 34 million people are living with HIV worldwide -- and 5 million of them are between the ages of 15 and 24. That age group accounts for an estimated 39% of new adult HIV infections globally; and nearly 65% of young people living with HIV are women. Most of them live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Bernadette is one of those young people. Now 20, Bernadette has been a client at the WE-ACTx for Hope Clinic, Keep a Child Alive's partner in Kigali, Rwanda, since 2007.
Cristina and I have had the honor of visiting our Keep a Child Alive programs in Africa -- and Cristina just returned from a visit with some of the young people that I met when they were just toddlers. Ten years later, these young people are living healthy, happy, hopeful lives.
We've seen amazing progress in the past 10 years -- and though we still have a long way to go, more people are getting HIV treatment and fewer babies are being born with HIV. We're seeing the results of so many people's work to "keep a child alive," and now, the first generation of children who received HIV treatment are entering adolescence and young adulthood.