“There’s no doubt that we can end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. The question is whether we will. It would mean ensuring that people have access to health care, making sure that patients understand their treatment options, focusing our energies in the communities most affected, and attacking stigma and discrimination. Now here’s the real question. Do we have the moral and political will to do what needs to be done?” —Phill Wilson, Founder of the Black AIDS Institute, in an editorial for the New York Times
For every purchase of our six-spool Rainbow Set in June, Cocofloss will proudly make a $5 donation to support either the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) or the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Both formidable nonprofit organizations fight for important change. We’ll detail the mission of the Los Angeles LGBT Center soon in a future post. For now, please read on to learn more about BAI’s invaluable work.
BAI is the only uniquely and unapologetically Black think-and-do tank in America working to end the Black HIV epidemic. This Los Angeles–based nonprofit has worked for the past 22 years both locally and nationally to reframe and lead the fight against HIV in Black America by addressing the roots of the problem: HIV stigma and the ongoing oppression and marginalization of Black people.
While there is a wealth of information about BAI’s work on their website, we’d like to quickly highlight some of the details that demonstrate the critical importance of BAI’s mission.
Although Black people account for 13% of the U.S. population, they comprised 43% of new HIV diagnoses nationally in 2017, 43% of AIDS-related deaths, and 42% of all people in the U.S. living with HIV.
As BAI states, “The HIV epidemic vividly reflects the persistent and comprehensive disadvantages and disenfranchisement experienced by Black America.” The enduring legacy of anti-Black racism in the U.S. largely explains the following tragic statistics:
• One in two Black gay and bisexual men will contract HIV during their lifetimes if current rates persist, according to the CDC.
• Black Americans in 2013-2017 were more than eight times as likely to be diagnosed with HIV as white Americans.
• Black youth (ages 13 to 29 years) in 2010-2014 were 10.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than their young white peers.
• 72% of women living with HIV are Black.
• If Black America were a country in its own right, its HIV epidemic would rank among the world’s largest, surpassing in severity many national epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa.
With a deep understanding that health justice is racial justice, BAI develops programs that create awareness about the HIV crisis in Black communities and provides training to improve knowledge, skills, and effectiveness at the individual and community level.
• In Los Angeles, BAI’s HIV prevention clinic, A Clinic for Us, provides HIV testing and counseling, as well as on-site PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) distribution, HIV treatment, and other clinical services. All HIV tests, consultations, and laboratory work are conducted free of charge.
• BAI’s Los Angeles program named Revolution in Color focuses on personal goal setting, life skills and planning, and social experiences and events to mobilize young Black gay and bisexual men to shape a healthy community for themselves, build positive social connections, and support their friends to have safer sex and healthier relationships.
• In 2018 alone, BAI trained 700 people in HIV science.
• In 2018, they also tested 1,556 people for HIV.
• In 2020, BAI provided 200 advocacy and learning opportunities.
• In 2021, BAI joined the San Francisco Community Health Center and Latino Commission on AIDS to form the Stronger Together Partnership (STP). This strategic think tank will work to address the institutional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic that affect HIV/STI/HCV services to communities of color. You can read the reporthere.
On a national level, BAI works with 14 chapters of the Black Treatment Advocates Network and 12 affiliates. Together they will use BAI’s informative and inspiring report, “We The People: A Black Plan to End HIV,” as a framework for action at the local and state levels.
“We the People” outlines four major recommendations to effectively center the most marginalized communities and stop the HIV epidemic:
1. Dismantle anti-Black practices, systems, and institutions that endanger the health and well-being of Black people and undermine an effective, equitable response to HIV in Black America.
2. Invest in Black communities through resources and services that address the fullness, richness, potential, and expertise of Black people and mitigate social and structural factors that worsen health outcomes in Black communities.
3. Ensure universal access to and robust utilization of high-quality, comprehensive, affordable and culturally, and gender-affirming healthcare to enable Black people to live healthy lives in full dignity.
4. Build the capacity and motivation of Black communities to be the change agents for ending HIV.
According to BAI’s current president and chief executive officer, Raniyah Copeland, “The same forces that render Black Americans vulnerable to poverty, unemployment, limited educational opportunities, incarceration, voter suppression, and housing instability are the same forces that have made HIV such a crisis in our communities. We can set all the lofty HIV goals we want, but we’ll never reach them if we don’t courageously tackle the dynamics that increase Black people’s risk for HIV and reduce our ability to benefit from biomedical breakthroughs.”
Let’s join together now to support BAI’s groundbreaking work. Visit blackaids.org/donate to help.