AK: I’m Alicia Keys. And I am passionate about ending AIDS.
AK: I’ve done a lot of work international AIDS issues. I was first introduced to it in 2001. That was a big life changer for me, and that has set my path about fighting the AIDS pandemic.
AK: I happened to go to this Kaiser Foundation sponsored event.
AK Footage: “I’m very emotional…and that’s how it should be.”
AK: There were these incredible women all in one room. And they were sharing their stories, you know. And they were living right here in America. And…were just like me, you know. Somehow we might have gotten into this mind-state that it’s over there. Or it’s really just their problem, and that’s the mistake. It’s not just one group’s issue. It’s all of our issues. And I realized right there, I was like, wow, there is a whole thing going on here in America that I need to turn my attention to as well. AIDS in America, it is like right here, right now, and we have to start talking about it. I sat down to talk with five amazing women who are HIV positive. They are confronting the stigma of HIV head on. Together, we want to change the way you think about HIV. You might know women like them in your own life. They’re mothers, wives, daughters, students, caregivers, business owners. They’re just like you, and they’re just like me. And let me tell you, these women are empowered. I was so moved by their strength and passion. They reminded me that as women, we are so unlimited in our power.
KYM: I was infected with HIV within my marriage. I said ‘how long have you known?’ And he said, I don’t know, Kym. Over ten years.
JENNIFER: Oh no.
KYM: Why, why haven’t we talked about this? Why didn’t I know?
EVA: Anything negative as a woman you can think of, I was dealing with it. Depression, low self esteem, on my own, dealing with the world, taking care of a child at the time, it was like, okay, I need to find my self worth.
CRISTINA: At nine I started to compare myself to my friends on the playground. So one day I said, ‘Mom, what’s wrong with me.’ She broke down that my dad and her had tested HIV positive in ‘86. And my mom breastfed me – she didn’t know.
STEPHANIE: And I’m really beating myself up, because I felt like, I’m a straight A student, I just started college. I’m the only girl in the family. I’m smarter than this. How in the hell did I just let this happen to me?
JEN: And pretty much everyone who ends up HIV positive says ‘I didn’t think it could happen to me,’ and then it happened to me.
AK: What does it mean to be Empowered?
STEPHANIE: It’s that word, freedom. EVA: Exactly. I get my empowerment from breaking barriers that other people said couldn’t be broken.
STEPHANIE: Where you can share your status and have nothing to hide.
AK: My time with these women showed me that we are all – whether HIV positive or negative – empowered in this fight.We are empowered in our knowledge and understanding of this disease – who it affects, how it’s spread, and how it’s not.
JEN: HIV and AIDS affects all of us. And it isn’t something that is dirty or bad…Or only happens to “those” people.
KYM: It’s a health issue.
EVA: My boys, they know me as being straightforward, upfront, and honest. We have set down and talked about the whole sex thing, HIV, and how did I get contracted, and I didn’t sugarcoat. Get tested. Know what’s going on, know what’s going on with yourself. Cause nobody’s going to take care of your life like you.
JEN: I have a husband who’s HIV negative, and we keep him HIV negative by making sure that I maintain my treatment, and that’s been 15 years. And so it is possible.
EVA: I have been undetectable for 18 beautiful years.
JEN: The important thing about getting on treatment and staying on it is that it keeps our viral load low, and we can extend lives.
CRISTINA: We can be mothers, we can be grandmothers, I mean this is how we are as women.