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After his controversial anti-gay remarks led to a wave of backlash and lost gigs, rapper DaBaby issued two apologies with the most recent, posted Monday, focusing on the importance of education and guidance to learn from the mistakes. “I appreciate the many people who came to me with kindness, who reached out to me privately to offer wisdom, education, and resources,” he wrote. “That’s what I needed and it was received.”
A day later, a group comprised of 11 organizations has come forward publicly with an open letter and an offer to do just that — offer education, specifically about HIV/AIDS in the hope that he can learn the facts and pass along the intel to his fans. While performing at Miami’s Rolling Loud festival last month, the hitmaker asked fans to shine 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.”
DaBaby later addressed the comments and only fueled the fire by stating his gay fans “don’t have HIV/AIDS” because they’re not “nasty” or “junkies.” He was subsequently dropped from the lineups of music festivals including Lollapalooza, the Governors Ball and Day N Vegas, among others.
The organizations behind the letter include Arianna’s Center, Black AIDS Institute, GLAAD, the Normal Anomaly Initiative, Prevention Access Campaign, Relationship Unleashed, the 6:52 Project Foundation, and leaders from the Gilead COMPASS Initiative including Southern AIDS Coalition, Emory University, the University of Houston and Wake Forest University.
Dashawn Usher, GLAAD’s associate director for communities of color, said, “Together with leaders in the HIV field, we are asking for a meeting with DaBaby to educate and enlighten him, and all Americans, about the facts: HIV is preventable and with treatment, it can become undetectable and therefore untransmittable. DaBaby can be a powerful and influential voice where Black Americans need it most. We urge him to learn the facts and use his platform to share the truth that can save lives.”
The full open letter can be found below.
We, the undersigned, represent organizations leading the fight to prevent HIV and provide care and treatment for people living with HIV, especially Black LGBTQ people across the Southern United States.
We heard your inaccurate and harmful comments at Rolling Loud and have read your Instagram apology. However, at a time when HIV continues to disproportionately impact Black Americans and queer and transgender people of color, a dialogue is critical. We must address the miseducation about HIV, expressed in your comments, and the impact it has on various communities.
2021 marks the 40th year of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the greatest obstacles in our work to end HIV are the compounded stigmas attached to anti-Blackness, living with HIV, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ attitudes and stereotypes, all of which are fueled by misinformation. Fear and stigma keep people, particularly Black Americans, from accessing HIV prevention or care that White Americans have historically accessed and continue to access more easily. We believe you now have an opportunity to not just move past this unfortunate incident, but to use your platform and celebrity to heal not harm.
We believe that anyone can be an HIV advocate by amplifying: how there is medication (PrEP) that can prevent people from getting HIV with one pill a day, how routine treatment stops the virus from being passed on by people living with HIV, how people receiving HIV care can survive and thrive while living with it, and how open and empathetic conversations eliminate stigma. You can be a powerful and influential voice, especially across your home base in the South, where the Black community’s needs are notoriously under-represented across every public spectrum. We encourage you to share this information with your fans and followers, and become an agent of truth and change.
Music artists have historically led the way to lift up understanding of HIV and accelerate LGBTQ acceptance. Several artists and platforms have spoken up against you. While we appreciate their stand, we also invite them to take action and to do their part to end HIV by supporting organizations like ours serving people who are Black, LGBTQ and/or living with HIV.
As mentioned in your latest apology, education is important. We agree. GLAAD and Gilead Science’s 2020 State of HIV Stigma Study found that 90% of Americans believe “there is stigma around HIV,” that “people are quick to judge those with HIV,” and “people make assumptions when someone is tested for HIV.” There were a significant number of people (40%) who did not know that HIV can be treated. Nearly 60% wrongfully believe it is “important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it.”
Here are the facts:
– People living with HIV today, when on effective treatment, lead long and healthy lives and cannot sexually transmit HIV. Treatment can suppress the virus to a point where it is no longer detected in a person’s body. When it is undetected, it is untransmittable, the key message of the U=U campaign.
– Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV. 13% of them don’t know it, reinforcing the need for HIV testing and to end stigma around HIV testing.
– People most vulnerable to HIV are those with limited access to transportation, housing, healthcare, and social support. We should focus on advocating for resources in our community rather than stigmatizing women and LGBTQ people.
– Black Americans account for more HIV diagnoses (43%), people living with HIV (42%), and the most deaths among people with HIV (44%) than any other racial and ethnic group in the U.S.
– The CDC states the U.S. South experiences the greatest rates of HIV and lags behind in providing quality HIV prevention services and care. According to AIDSVu, a program from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and the Center for AIDS Research at Emory University, 31,864 people are living with HIV in North Carolina, where you were raised.
– Medications like PrEP protect people who do not have HIV from contracting it. The CDC states that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken as prescribed.
As leaders of organizations directly serving Black, LGBTQ, and HIV+ communities, we invite you to a private, off-the-record, virtual discussion with us. You stated you now understand how and why your comments were damaging. An open conversation holds the potential for you to now create meaningful impact by transforming from an adversary to an advocate.
Dr. Samira Ali, Director, SUSTAIN Center at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work
Dr. Davin D. Clemons, CoFounder and Chief Financial Officer, Relationship Unleashed
Gwendolyn D. Clemons, CoFounder and Executive Director, Relationship Unleashed
Kia Colbert, Program Director, EnCORE, Emory Centers for Public Health Training and Technical Assistance
Raniyah Copeland, President and CEO, Black AIDS Institute
Ian L. Haddock, Founder and Executive Director, The Normal Anomaly Initiative
Rev. Dr. Shonda Jones, Wake Forest Faith Coordinating Center
Arianna Lint, CEO & President, Arianna’s Center
Dr. Allison Mathews, Wake Forest University Faith Coordinating Center
Deondre B. Moore, U.S. Partnerships & Community Engagement Manager, Prevention Access Campaign
Warren A. O’Meara-Dates, Founder/Chief Executive Officer, The 6:52 Project Foundation, Inc.
Neena Smith-Bankhead, Center Director, EnCORE, Emory Centers for Public Health Training and Technical Assistance
Bec Sokha Keo (they/them), Public Impact Scholar, SUSTAIN Center at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work
DaShawn Usher, Associate Director, Communities of Color, GLAAD
Dafina Ward, Executive Director, Southern AIDS Coalition
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