In the aftermath of rapper DaBaby’s homophobic and aidsphobic comments at Rolling Loud and his subsequent lackadaisical attempts at an apology, a coalition made up of 11 LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS organizations sent out a letter to the artist asking for a private meeting to educate him about the reality of HIV/AIDS, the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community, and how he can better educate himself and his fanbase on these critical matters.
Among the organizations that signed on 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.
DaBaby’s comments were not only offensive but also dangerous considering the intersectional oppression that black and brown LGBTQ+ people as well as people living with HIV/AIDS are faced with.
Already according to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 33 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been murdered this year and most of whom are black and brown and this ongoing epidemic exists not only within the context of DaBaby’s comments, but also at a time when anti-trans legislation has been popping up and in some cases signed into law in various states across America.
Even after exactly 40 years since the first HIV/AIDS cases were documented in the United States and much progress made on access to life saving treatment and progressive legislation, HIV/AIDS still remains a highlighly stigmatized matter and the letter that was sent to the DaBaby issues the following numbers:
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 who have 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 that 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.
The entire letter can be found here: https://www.glaad.org/blog/open-letter-dababy
This moment has reminded us of the longstanding issue of homophobia and transphobia in hip hop which is still a pervasive problem. All one has to do is a google search on some of hip hop’s most beloved artists such as NWA, Eminem, Goodie Mob, and others and you will see many of their lyrics were riddled with such degradation.
Even with the rise of LGBTQ+ hip hop artists in recent years such as Lil Nas X, Big Freeda, Taylor Bennett, and Mykki Blanco to name a few, a vicious backlash has upped the ante to the point where artists such as Offset, Pastor Troy, Yung Miami, Lil Duval, and others have at one point advocated violence against the LGBTQ+ community.
So DaBaby’s comments are not an isolated incident and there needs to be an urgent need for hip hop to have a long overdue reckoning with its treatment towards a vulnerable community and it shouldn’t be on the part of the LGBTQ+ community to be the ones to educate artists like DaBaby on why he is wrong, he needs to do that himself.
Nevertheless, this letter is a noble solution focused effort that should be commended.
I had the chance to interview Reverend Rob Newells ‑Newton, Director of Programs for the Black AIDS Institute, whose a Black gay man living with HIV and also a veteran to get his thoughts on the matter.
What compelled the Black AIDS Institute to take this action against DaBaby?
I think everybody understands what misinformation can do to folks’ health in this era when everybody is paying attention to COVID-19 and we have known for years in the HIV business that misinformation can lead to hire infection rates among certain communities and particularly when Black Americans are the most affected community in the United States. DaBaby’s comments were spoken to a wide audience and gives us an opportunity to correct the misinformation and arm folks with knowledge that will keep them healthy.
What do you hope comes out of the letter?
The best case scenario is that DaBaby and his team will sit down and talk about what he said and what the facts are. I know that it is likely very intimidating for someone to come in and sit down with a group of organizations that come out against something that you have said. So maybe a one on one is the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that we have a conversation in the public about HIV, which a lot of folks thought was a problem of yesteryear, a lot of folks think HIV is not an issue anymore. So DaBaby’s comments aren’t out of the ordinary alot people think like he does. So it allows us to engage those people in a conversation and maybe a little bit of knowledge and understanding.
What is your take on the current state of LGBTQ+ acceptance in Hip Hop?
I was born and raised in Oakland, California. I grew up listening to Too Short basement tapes in my library in middle school in the 80’s. I grew up listening to NWA and DJ Quik. So I can’t say anything about the artistry of today but I think that the fact that so many folks have spoken out against the misogyny, homophobia, and the HIV stigma is a positive sign that we have come a long way because 20–30 years ago nobody would have said anything. We still have a long way to go because there are still folks defending his comments and we invite those folks to the table too.
How can folks support organizations like the Black AIDS Institute?
We have 26 affiliates across the country in all communities mostly in the deep south which is where most black folks in the United States live which is where most of the HIV in the United States is. So there are opportunities to connect with like minded people and do some work on the ground in ending stigma and make sure that folks understand their treatment and prevention options. You can just get educated as well, alot of folks don’t need to be advocates or activists, but they can be educated themselves and share information with their close circles. So we have lots of training programs and look for factual information. When you hear something that doesn’t sound right, look for the facts like www.aids.org is a place to get some of those facts but there are others as well.
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