August 28, 2013
Harlem Hospital and Greater Than AIDS hosted a community forum that featured Grammy-award winning artist Alicia Keys and aimed to address HIV's impact on Harlem residents. Forum organizers stated that in 2011, Harlem's HIV incidence was four to five times higher than HIV among the overall U.S. population. The forum aimed to break down barriers of stigma, fear, and ignorance; promote HIV testing; and connect HIV-infected persons to treatment. Supporting organizations included faith and political leaders, social and healthcare advocates, artists, and young people.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 400 attendees, Keys encouraged black and Hispanic community members to discuss HIV/AIDS "honestly and openly," to dispel fear and stigma, and learn the truth about HIV. Earlier in 2013, Keys partnered with Greater Than AIDS to launch EMPOWERED, an HIV education campaign targeting women. EMPOWERED reached out through public service advertisements, social media, and community programs to encourage HIV knowledge, open communication, use of protection, regular testing, and adherence to HIV treatment. Keys also served as co-founder and global ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, an HIV service organization operating in Africa and India.
Additional speakers included: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), who recently co-sponsored the Communities United with Religious leaders for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS (CURE) Act to fund HIV prevention activities at the community level; Dr. Helene Gayle, president and chief executive officer of CARE USA, who cited societal factors that caused communities of color to experience disproportionate impact from HIV and other diseases, including poverty, lack of insurance and access to healthcare services, and deferring medical care in favor of competing needs; and Russell Simmons, hip-hop artist and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, who emphasized the role of the hip-hop community in promoting love and tolerance for HIV-infected people and those affected by HIV, rather than fear and stigma.