Rapper DaBaby participated in a virtual meeting last Wednesday with Black leaders from numerous HIV organizations, where the activists shared facts on how the disease disproportionately affects African-Americans.
The musician encountered a firestorm last month when, during a concert in Miami, he said to the crowd, "If you didn't show up today with HIV, AIDS, any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that'll make you die in two, three weeks, then put your cellphone light up. Fellas, if you ain't suck a n**** dick in the parking lot, put your cell phone lights in the air. Keep it f****** real."
Though DaBaby later issued an apology (that some viewed as less than sincere), activists invited him to participate in a meeting about HIV and the pervasive stigma that still surrounds the disease. Now it appears DaBaby accepted. It was a productive gathering, according to those who attended, which included representatives from the Black AIDS Institute, Gilead Sciences COMPASS Initiative Coordinating Centers, GLAAD, NMAC, the Normal Anomaly Initiative, Positive Women's Network-USA, Prevention Access Campaign (U=U), the Southern AIDS Coalition, and Transinclusive Group as well as a faith and HIV adviser.
The representatives issued the following statement regarding the meeting:
The open letter to DaBaby was our way to extend him the same grace each of us would hope for. Our goal was to "call him in instead of calling him out." We believed that if he connected with Black leaders living with HIV that a space for community building and healing could be created. We are encouraged he swiftly answered our call and joined us in a meaningful dialogue and a thoughtful, educational meeting.
During our meeting, DaBaby was genuinely engaged, apologized for the inaccurate and hurtful comments he made about people living with HIV, and received our personal stories and the truth about HIV and its impact on Black and LGBTQ communities with deep respect. We appreciate that he openly and eagerly participated in this forum of Black people living with HIV, which provided him an opportunity to learn and to receive accurate information.
As community leaders who understand the power of conversations as a path to education and evolution, we know that DaBaby received meaningful facts. We were also able to share personal stories about our lives as everyday people who acquired HIV. Now, we wish for him to use his platform to relay that critical information to his fanbase and encourage people to get tested and know their status. During our meeting, DaBaby acknowledged that the HIV facts we presented - many of which he himself was unaware of - are what every American needs to know: HIV is preventable and when treated properly, cannot be passed on. At a time when HIV continues to disproportionately impact Black communities, celebrities and influencers of all backgrounds have the power to defeat the stigma that fuels the epidemic. We must all do our part to make the public aware of medication that can prevent HIV and to get more people tested and treated. Together we can end this epidemic. 40 years is far too long. Stigma hurts; prevention, testing, and treatment work.
Leaders shared the following facts with DaBaby and jointly want to share them with his fans:
HIV Is a Social Justice and Racial Justice Issue: Black Americans account for more HIV diagnoses (43%) and people living with HIV (42%) than any other racial and ethnic group in the U.S. Black Americans are vulnerable to HIV because of structural barriers, steeped in racist and anti-Black policies and practices, to resources like healthcare, education, employment and housing. The three groups most affected by HIV are Black gay men, Black cisgender women and transgender women of color.
HIV Treatment Works, U=U: People diagnosed with HIV don't "die in two or three weeks." People living with HIV, when on effective treatment, live long and healthy lives and cannot sexually transmit HIV. When someone living with HIV receives effective treatment and follows regimens prescribed by their doctor, HIV becomes undetectable when tested. When HIV is undetectable, it is untransmittable: U=U (#UequalsU)
HIV Prevention Works: HIV testing should be a part of regular medical screenings.The CDC recommends that every person ages 13-64 receive an HIV test. When a person takes a test and receives an HIV diagnosis, they can be linked to care immediately to protect their own health and prevent passing on HIV to others. When a person takes a test and learns they are HIV negative, they can then make decisions that can protect them from HIV. Medications like PrEP (a daily pill to prevent HIV) are 99% effective at preventing HIV when taken as prescribed for people who do not have HIV.
HIV Is a Chronic Health Condition, Not a Death Sentence: HIV can be prevented, tested, and treated like any chronic disease such as diabetes. It is not a death sentence. People living with HIV and on treatment can be healthy, have children, and not pass on the virus (Undetectable = Untransmittable).
HIV Stigma Hurts, and Spreads the Disease: Shaming people living with HIV or for being on medication to prevent HIV stops people from seeking the care they need and lets undiagnosed people pass on the virus."
"Our goal is to make sure that Black people are armed with accurate information so that they can make the best choices for themselves about their sexual health," Reverend Rob Newells-Newton, Director of Programs at Black AIDS Institute, said in a statement.
"Last year, Black AIDS Institute released We The People: A Black Strategy to End HIV. This year, we've been working with our partners to develop a Federal Action Plan and a Community Action Plan with concrete steps folks can take to put the four pillars of We The People into action. We call on Black people and our allies to: dismantle anti-Black racism; invest in transforming the socioeconomic conditions of Black people; ensure universal access to culturally-affirming healthcare; and build the capacity and motivation of Black communities to be the change agents for ending HIV."
In announcing their meeting with DaBaby, the participating organizations reiterated the results of a recent study from GLAAD. "The State of HIV Stigma" showed widespread confusion from the general public about the disease and bias toward those living with it.