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Celebrities help to break HIV/AIDS stigma

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

By Dhruv Anish Sep. 22, 2021

Beomhee Kim Art

American rapper DaBaby has been in the public spotlight for his prolific music career, winning consecutive Black Entertainment Television awards for best hip hop artists in 2019 and 2020 as well as having 53 songs inside of the Billboard Hot 100. However, DaBaby’s public image has recently soured due to the insensitive comments he made at the Rolling Loud music festival targeting people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

DaBaby called for all his fans at the concert to hold up their phones during his performance, except those living with HIV and AIDS—diseases that he falsely claimed would make those affected “die in two, three weeks.” These comments resulted in a public outcry following the event, resulting in his removal from music festivals such as Lollapalooza, iHeartRadio and Austin City Limits, while also being dropped from his clothing sponsor, boohooMan.

Unfortunately, DaBaby is far from being the first public figure to spread hateful misinformation about HIV/AIDS and its link to the LGBTQ+ community. According to the health organization Avert, the AIDS epidemic that was discovered in the 1980s actually originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1920s. Avert reports that humans were infected by the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus that chimps in the region carried, resulting in the development of what we now classify as HIV. The virus spread to increasing numbers of travelers in the geographic region, eventually making its way to the U.S. in the 1980s.

HIV became stigmatized in the media—newspapers like the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror even went so far as to call the emerging epidemic the “gay plague,” portraying people living with HIV as being more sexually active and alienating them from “normal” people.

At the time, gay men were those most commonly affected by HIV, resulting in the majority of the public vilifying them and incorrectly labeling members of the LGBTQ+ community as being the cause of the epidemic. People living with HIV have reported that they feel the negative stigma surrounding the diagnosis to be detrimental towards factors such as income, healthcare and social perception, as per The Well Project.

To counteract the spread of negative information, celebrities have used their status to encourage the public to be more accepting of those living with HIV/AIDS. For instance, figures like National Basketball Association star Magic Johnson, actor Charlie Sheen and artist Keith Haring are all celebrities that have been very public about their HIV-positive diagnoses, normalizing their conditions to the general public. Many celebrities have also taken action to prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS. LGBTQ+ music artist and AIDS patient Elton John started his own nonprofit organization, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, to fund frontline partners that are searching for a cure. Likewise, singer John Legend partnered with Belvedere Vodka to donate 50 percent of all profits to HIV/AIDS prevention organizations and released his original song “Love Me Now” to be used as part of the campaign.

“Celebrities should be using their growing platforms to help the people with these diagnoses get the treatment and support they need, as they are able to spread helpful information quickly to a large variety of people through social media,” Sophomore Ved Rao said.

After his mishap on July 25, DaBaby publicly apologized for his hateful remarks, taking the opportunity to learn more about the disease by attending informational lectures from the Black AIDS Institute, Gilead Sciences COMPASS Initiative Coordinating Centers and The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, among other organizations. The leaders of the groups reported that DaBaby was engaged and seemed genuinely interested in learning more about the disease.

“It was wrong of DaBaby to make those comments since he knows that, due to his large following, he could influence the minds of many impressionable young people. He has not yet redeemed himself and needs to do more to show that he has truly changed,” Junior Sanjana Subramanyan said.

After the backlash he has faced, DaBaby has expressed publicly that he has learned his lesson. It is imperative that people learn from his mistakes and look to educate themselves further about HIV/AIDS before making untrue assumptions.


About the Contributors

Dhruv Anish

Staff Writer

Dhruv Anish is a senior at Leland High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. He likes to watch movies and listen to music in his spare time. His favorite actor is Robert Deniro and his favorite movie is The Godfather: Part 2

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