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Destiny's Child star takes HIV test in Kenya to raise awareness

  • Story Highlights
  • Singer Kelly Rowland takes an HIV test in Kenya to raise awareness of the virus
  • Rowland is first ambassador for MTV's Staying Alive Foundation
  • The foundation works to empower young people to protect themselves from HIV
  • Rowland and 22-year-old Kenyan John Ngugi take the test together
  • Next Article in Entertainment »
From David McKenzie
CNN
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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- She burst on the music scene as one-third of Destiny's Child, the highest-selling female group of all time.

Kelly Rowland took an AIDS test in a tiny counseling room in a Kenyan hospital.

Kelly Rowland took an AIDS test in a tiny counseling room in a Kenyan hospital.

And then she proved it doesn't take three to make hits. Sassy Kelly Rowland showed the world she could go it alone and still hit No. 1 on the charts.

But now this Grammy-winning R&B sensation is using her considerable charm and charisma to take on the scourge of AIDS.

She is the first ambassador for MTV's Staying Alive Foundation, which works to empower young people to protect them against AIDS.

In silver high heels and a sundress, Rowland arrived Thursday at the Kenyatta Hospital in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, to take a public stand against stigma and undergo an HIV test. "For me, knowing your status is glamorous because then you get to carry that with you and you get to protect yourself," she said.

Rowland and 22-year-old Kenyan John Ngugi took the test together in a tiny counseling room at the testing center at this public hospital. He also wanted to know his status, but he couldn't suppress a large grin at times sitting next to such star power. Video Watch CNN's David McKenzie report on Rowland's trip »

"As a young person from Mathare slum and having a super star to actually have a test with," said Ngugi, "It is just a big promise for me and a big promise for my community and I am just grateful for the test."

Like much of Africa, Kenya struggles with the AIDS pandemic. UNAIDS, the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, estimates that more than 22 million adults and children are living with HIV on the continent. And it strikes the youth hardest.

"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."

In Kenya, as in many parts of Africa, people are often afraid to take an HIV test for fear of being stigmatized. In Kenya, antiretroviral drugs are free for HIV-positive people, but many people would rather not know whether they are HIV positive for fear of facing discrimination in the workplace and in the community.

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And so Kelly Rowland has added her voice to the campaign to help end the suffering of so many victims.

"It's killing us as people and I think above anything these numbers aren't changing," she said. "The more that I get involved, you get everybody out there ... involved, then hopefully we can see a change -- a big change."

All About HIV and AIDSKenya

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