By Marene Gustin and Lourdes Zavaleta
DaBaby has announced that he is working with leaders from across the U.S. to educate himself on issues that predominantly impact Black Americans and queer people of color.
The rapper made headlines in July for his controversial homophobic remarks about people living with HIV and AIDS during his performance at the Rolling Loud music festival in Miami. Following that performance, eleven HIV organizations wrote an open letter to DaBaby offering to help the artist better understand the issues surrounding HIV.
Black leaders from nine of those organizations—including Houston’s The Normal Anomaly Initiative—met with DaBaby on August 31. Members from each of those groups discussed the facts and shared personal statements about living and thriving with HIV.
“The open letter to DaBaby was our way to extend him the same grace that each of us would hope for,” the groups said in a statement. “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 would be created. We are encouraged he swiftly answered our call and joined us in a meaningful dialogue and a thoughtful, educational meeting.”
In late August, GLAAD and Gilead Sciences released a poll that found less than half of Americans feel knowledgeable about HIV, and only 42 percent are aware that people living with HIV who are on proper medications cannot transmit the virus.
“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, it cannot be passed on,” the leaders said.
Group members shared the following facts with DaBaby and his fans:
- HIV is a social-justice and racial-justice issue: Black Americans account for more HIV diagnoses than any other racial and ethnic group in the U.S. The three groups most affected by HIV are Black gay men, Black cisgender women, and transgender women of color. Structural barriers keep many of these folks from accessing health care, education, employment, and housing.
- HIV treatment works: When people with HIV are on effective treatment, they live long and healthy lives and cannot sexually transmit HIV.
- HIV prevention works: When a person receives an HIV diagnosis, they can be linked to care immediately to protect their own health and prevent passing on HIV to others. Medications like PrEP are 99 percent effective at preventing HIV when taken as prescribed.
- HIV is not a death sentence: HIV can be prevented, tested, and treated like any other chronic disease. People living with HIV who are on treatment can be healthy, have children, and not pass on the virus.
- HIV stigma spreads the disease: Shaming people living with HIV (or those who are on medication to prevent HIV) stops people from seeking the care they need and leads to more undiagnosed people passing on the virus.
Following his comments in July, DaBaby experienced concert cancellations and artists such as Madonna and Elton John publicly called him out. He apologized on August 2, but one week later he deleted the apology.
A letter to DaBaby was then drafted and signed by organizations providing HIV education, capacity building, and direct services to people most impacted by HIV/AIDS. GLAAD and The Gilead COMPASS Initiative spearheaded the letter campaign.
“The Normal Anomaly began speaking out regarding DaBaby’s homophobic and stigmatizing comments almost immediately after he made them,” said Ian L. Haddock, executive director of The Normal Anomaly Initiative.
“It was an insult to the work that we and many other organizations do,” he added. “When GLAAD approached us about joining efforts to collectively call it out, it was a no-brainer. The hope was that DaBaby would see this as an opportunity to build a bridge. I take the removal of his apology to heart. The apology wasn’t enough already, but the removal [seemed to indicate] that he just doesn’t care about the most marginalized communities—many who support his music.”
Other organizations signing the letter include the Gilead COMPASS Initiative, coordinating centers at Emory University, the University of Houston, the Southern AIDS Coalition, and Wake Forest University.
To see the open letter to DaBaby and view all 125 organizations that have signed on, visit glaad.org/blog/open-letter-dababy. For more information on The Normal Anomaly Initiative, visit normalanomaly.org.