Activist Leigh Blake has been fighting for better HIV/AIDS treatment around the globe for decades.
“People were terrified of people with HIV,” she said. “So, it was a really difficult time, but it was exactly the right time to do what we did.
Blake sparked global change for HIV/AIDS treatment. The disease began to affect her personally when a friend of hers named David became afflicted with it.
“It made me furious, the stories,” she said. “You know, being alienated, being alienated in hospital settings, friends of his being put in black plastic bags on hospital, you know, trolleys when they died. And that’s when I decided that I needed to sue all of the contacts that I had. And find a Trojan horse with which to tackle AIDS.”
In 1990, Blake co-founded the Red Hot Organization, a music initiative that raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDs research and education. With the funds, she created a pediatric clinic in Kenya in partnership with New York University Medical Center. She then went on to co-found Keep a Child Alive with Alicia Keys. Since 2003, it has raised more than $28 million for HIV/AIDS treatment.
“I’d like to say to my 15-year-old self, don’t fall into the box of the way that we women are supposed to behave,” she said. “And if you really, really, focus on making people’s lives better, and giving, giving, giving, giving, you notice that your life completely changes.”