DaBaby’s recent unprompted homophobic comments at a recent performance are not just ignorant but downright misinformed and dangerous. His comments underscore a persistent lack of understanding the general public has surrounding HIV, contributing to the stigma that leads people to not be informed about HIV, not get tested, and to have a worse quality of life if they’re positive. By unpacking his thoughtless comments, we can understand how the persistent stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS directly fuels the HIV epidemic.
At the Rolling Loud festival in Miami, DaBaby told fans to put their lighters in the air 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” or if they “didn’t suck a n**** d*** in the parking lot.”
In a response to the negative reception of his comments, he then doubled down on his homophobia by trying to put a positive spin on how “clean” even his gay fans were. On his Instagram story, he said “My gay fans, they take care of themselves. They ain’t going for that. They ain’t no nasty gay n—–, you know what I’m saying?” This comment implies that people become positive because they’re not taking care of themselves, that they’re a dirty kind of gay person, and that HIV is a death sentence. None of this is true.
Even then, the stigma that DaBaby perpetuated with his comments is what makes HIV more deadly, and African American males are the demographic most affected by it. African-American males in the United States “represent the largest portion of all new HIV diagnoses among men and women in comparison to other racial/ethnic groups,” and as many as half of all gay and bisexual black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes. The discrimition, stigma, and hate crimes that HIV-positive queer black men face in regards to their racial identity, HIV status, and sexual orienation are linked to worse health outcomes for the demographic, and the stigma is additionally linked to higher rates of HIV medication nonadherance.
Hearing these disheartening comments from someone who has addressed racism and BLM through his performances reveals that we need to be lifting up voices at the intersection of multiple identities. Black trans people have an unemployment rate of 26%, twice as high as the unemployment rate for all transgender people and four times as high as the general population’s unemployment rate. They’re also more than 5 times as likely to have been homeless in their lifetime than the general population.
Moreover, the “‘trans panic defense,’ a claim that a defendant was driven to violence due to their volatile emotional state after discovering that someone is transgender,” is still recognized in several states. It’s not nearly good enough for DaBaby to respond to the queer community’s backlash with “y’all do you and I’ll do me” mentality, especially when minorities at the intersection of race and sexual or gender orientation are the ones who truly take the brunt of the impact.
HIV is no longer a death sentence, so long as those diagnosed seek treatment and medication. In fact, people with HIV can get to such a low amount in their bloodstream that it’s undetectable in their blood and therefore untransmittable to their sexual partners. But they can’t get to a state where they’re untransmittable until they know they’re positive, until they feel confident enough from being informed about their status that they’ll consistently take medication, and greater discrimination is linked to greater AIDS symptoms as well as a “lower likelihood of having an undetectable viral load, and higher likelihood of having visited a hospital emergency department.”
DaBaby’s comments reveal an ignorance that treats HIV positive people like their dirty or untouchable when all unprotected sex, gay or otherwise has risk of HIV transmission. HIV positive people play an essential role in stopping the spread of the virus, and we can’t allow people with a platform to perpetuate misinformation about a virus without speaking up and correcting their mistakes, whether that virus has been around for months or decades.
Bianca Gonzalez is a queer, disabled, Latina B2B writer and social change advocate. She became a brain cancer survivor at the age of 20. Find her on Twitter at @ourstellarwords, Instagram at ourstellarwords, and on her website, b2binclusive.com.