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DaBaby and Black leaders from nine U.S. HIV organizations met for a private, virtual conversation following a stream of comments the rapper made about people living with HIV at a music festival in July.
The meeting followed an open letter, in which a group comprised of 11 organizations called for a meeting with Jonathan Kirk, whose stage name is DaBaby, after he shared his most recent apology to his Instagram. The meeting, which took place on Wednesday, Aug. 25, included representatives from Black AIDS Institute, Gilead Sciences COMPASS Initiative Coordinating Centers, GLAAD, National Minority AIDS Council (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 advisor, who discussed with the artist HIV history and education, among other topics.
In a joint statement, the organizations said that their open letter to the rapper, which was shared on Aug. 4 “was our way to extend him the same grace each of us would hope for.” As of Aug. 26, 125 organizations signed on to support the open letter to DaBaby.
“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,” the statement says.
According to the organizations, DaBaby was “genuinely engaged” and apologized for his inaccurate and hurtful comments about people living with HIV. Representatives from the organizations also shared their “personal stories and the truth about HIV and its impact on Black and LGBTQ communities with deep respect” with the rapper, who received them.
“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,” the statement continued.
The group also acknowledged that during the meeting, the rapper was unaware of HIV facts the groups presented and acknowledged it is information that every American needs to know. That includes the fact that “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. Forty years is far too long. Stigma hurts; prevention, testing, and treatment work,” they continued.
The nine organizations who met with the rapper provide HIV education and services to those most impacted by HIV/AIDS, particularly Black heterosexual men and women and LGBTQ communities across the southern United States.
“DaBaby’s willingness to listen, learn and grow can open the door to an entirely new generation of people to do the same,” said Marnina Miller, a community outreach coordinator for the Southern AIDS Coalition and meeting attendee. “Ending HIV stigma requires doing the hard work of changing hearts and minds, and often that begins with something as simple as starting a dialogue. We hope DaBaby will use his platform to educate his fans and help end the epidemic.”
During the rapper’s set at the Rolling Loud festival in Miami on Sunday, July 25, DaBaby had prompted fans to shine their cellphone flashlights if they “didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that will make you die in two to three weeks.” The comments resulted in the rapper being dropped from numerous festivals, including Lollapalooza, the Governor’s Ball and iHeart Radio. Following a string of statements posted to his social media, DaBaby’s final apology acknowledges the “hurtful and triggering comments” he had made.
“Social media moves so fast that people want to demolish you before you even have the opportunity to grow, educate, and learn from your mistakes. As a man who has had to make his own way from very difficult circumstances, having people I know publicly working against me — knowing that what I needed was education on these topics and guidance — has been challenging.”
He then apologized to the LGBTQ+ community “for the hurtful and triggering comments I made. Again, I apologize for my misinformed comments about HIV/AIDS and I know education on this is important.
In Tuesday’s statement, the group also included the facts and figures they shared with the rapper during their meeting. You can read them below.
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.
The 2021 State of HIV Stigma Study, published last week by GLAAD and Gilead Sciences, paints a troubling picture of the general US population’s overall awareness about HIV, including low levels of accurate knowledge around HIV transmission, and persistent stigma toward people living with HIV.
- 48% of American adults feel knowledgeable about HIV, down 3 points from the last year
- 87% believe there is still stigma around HIV
- Only 42% know the fact that people living with HIV cannot transmit the virus while on proper treatment
- 53% of non-LGBTQ people surveyed noted they would be uncomfortable interacting with a medical professional who has HIV; 43% uncomfortable around a hair stylist or barber living with HIV, 35% with a teacher living with HIV
- Levels of discomfort around people living with HIV are higher in the Midwest and highest in the U.S. South
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