Keri Hilson On National HIV Testing Day, Her Comeback In Music And Working With Kanye West

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After launching her career with 2009’s In A Perfect World… and following that up with No Boys Allowed the next year, Keri Hilson has stepped back from music to focus on a bigger cause. Today (June 27) marks National HIV Testing Day, reminding Americans to get tested for the HIV virus. Hilson, who is a Reed For Hope Foundation ambassador, has worked to bring awareness to the battle against HIV and AIDs. “We all know someone who has been affected by it, yet no one wants to talk about it,” she says. “That’s why I am so passionate. It needs to change.”

This year, Hilson teamed up with OraSure Technologies to encourage consumers to use an over-the-counter HIV test, which is the same used by medical professionals. XXL caught up with the R&B siren to learn more about becoming a spokesperson, her thoughts on the impact of HIV/AIDS within the African American community, and how other celebrities have joined in on the conversation. Hilson’s also says she’s ready to make a huge leap back into music once again. Get ready.—Eric Diep (@E_Diep)

XXL: It’s National HIV Testing Day. Why did you decide to become a spokesperson?
Keri Hilson: It’s kind of just natural for me. I always feel compelled to lend my voice to things I strongly believe in. Knowing that AIDS is the number one killer of African American women, as young as 16 to as old as 34, that’s what inspired me. That’s what really inspired me. Robi Reed of the Reed For Hope Foundation, she tapped me. She sees me as an influence on girls. She sees me as someone who lives healthy. She thought I’d be good to spread the message.

You wanted to offer your celebrity for a bigger cause.
Absolutely. I always love doing that. HIV and AIDS is something that a lot of people don’t talk about. A lot of people don’t like to be preached to, but it needs to happen. We need to talk about it. We need to continue eradicating its taboo-ness. People talk openly about cancer, but they don’t talk openly about—at least in my community—the number one killer. More likely we would die from HIV and AIDS than a car accident or a plane crash or cancer. It’s something that we need to continue talking about. We need to keep [it] in the forefront of our thoughts.

Do you think it’s a bigger problem within the African American community?
We as African American women are 20 times more likely to contract HIV and AIDS. Not 20 percent, 20 times more likely. I can’t believe that statistic. It’s something that hits the African American community harder. We make poor decisions and that has to change.

You are making strides on your own by teaming up with a brand called OraQuick.
Yes, it’s the very first in-home HIV testing kit. It’s the same one that doctors [have] used for about ten years. They developed and released the first in-home. You can go to the drug store where it’s only 40 dollars. You can pick it up on your way home if you are ever curious about your health. Make it happen. Know your status in 20 minutes. It’s incredible because early detection, just knowing this—it allows you to protect yourself better.

You are not the only one voicing your concerns, there’s also Swizz Beatz encouraging people to get tested.
That’s right. There are quite a few other young celebrities. Keke Palmer. Sean Kingston. There are a few others that are coming to my mind that I can’t say yet. They are huge, huge in Hollywood. Huge in athletics. I think that we are all going to lend our voice and make a change.

Is this your focus now? Have you put your music career on hold?
Musically, I did take a break. It seemed long to everyone, but it was a pretty brief hiatus. But I’m back in the studio, putting together my album. We are pretty close to choosing the single. We’ve thought we have chosen the single. We are almost there.