TROPIC TAKES ON RACISM – THE IMPACT OF HIV/AIDS ON THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY
Welcome back to another issue of Tropic Takes on Racism.
This time, in honour of LGBT+ History Month, we'll be looking at key black LGBTQ+ figures, as well as exploring the impact of HIV and AIDS and how racial inequality shapes the lives of many people across the world today.
KEY LGBTQ+ FIGURES
ALICIA GARZA AND PATRISSE CULLORS
Did you know that the Black Lives Matter movement was started by three women and that two of these women identify as queer?
As ABC News reports, "From the start, the founders of Black Lives Matter have always put LGBTQ voices at the centre of the conversation." The movement was founded by three black women, Alicia Garza (pictured left), Patrisse Cullors (pictured right) and Opal Tometi. What began as a hashtag in response to Trayvon Martin’s death and the acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman way back in 2013 became a nationwide and now global phenomenon.
As the Guardian explains, "Garza wrote a Facebook post she called 'a love letter to Black people'". Her friend, Patrisse Cullors, then shared this post with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, while her other friend Opal Tometi designed the blacklivesmatter.com website and social media platforms, using the signature black and yellow colour palette. "Seven years later, that rallying cry has changed our lexicon and landscape".
Often known as 'Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ+ community', Stormé’s call to action defined the turning point of the modern Gay Rights Movement.
Born in 1920, Stormé Delarverie was one of the first and most prominent members of the modern Gay Rights Movement. While the oral history of the Stonewall uprising/riots is uncertain, Stormé was there that fateful evening and is said to have protected the younger crowds from police violence, harassment and searches. For many across the community, she is regarded as an unsung trailblazer, dedicated to fighting for people's right to be free from discrimination.
The first black footballer to command a £1 million transfer fee, Justin Fashanu made headlines in 1990 by coming out publicly as gay, the first professional footballer to do so.
The Voice, a British national Afro-Caribbean weekly newspaper, described his coming out as “an affront to the black community…damaging…pathetic and unforgivable.”
Justin took his own life in 1998, two months after being accused of sexual assault and denying the accusations, fearing he would not get a fair trial if arrested.
In 2020 he was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame. There are currently no openly gay male footballers in England's top four divisions.
HIV/AIDS THEN AND NOW
Image credit: Channel 4
You may have recently seen the critically acclaimed mini-series It's A Sin, a drama about five friends as they grow up in the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. As Grazia writes, "It's rightly being hailed as one of the most important and poignant TV dramas in recent memory."
Thankfully, the UK provides a different backdrop. Transmission of HIV saw a 70 per cent reduction between 2012 to 2018, and the UK is on course for zero HIV transmissions by 2030.
However, the fight is far from over. Today, 38 million people across the globe are living with HIV/AIDS. That's more than the total coronavirus cases in the UK and USA combined.
Over half of people living with HIV are women. HIV disproportionately affects women and teenage girls because of the vulnerabilities created by unequal cultural, social and economic status.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, despite making up just 10 per cent of the population, one out of every five new HIV infections happens among teenage girls and young women. In the worst-affected countries, 80 per cent of new HIV infections among teenagers are among girls. It's estimated that around 50 teenage girls die every day from AIDS-related illnesses.
RACIAL INEQUALITY IN SOUTH AFRICA
Let's take a look at some numbers in South Africa. According to the CIA's World Factbook, South Africa has the fourth highest rate of HIV in the world, with an estimated 17.3 per cent of the adult population infected with HIV.
Breaking this down in South Africa by race, however, tells a different story. According to a paper published in the International Journal for Equity in Health, black African females had an HIV prevalence rate of 24.1 per cent in comparison to their white counterparts, for whom it was just 0.5 per cent. These findings coincide with the fact that black Africans are also statistically most burdened with low education levels, unemployment and poverty.
As the paper's authors, M. Mabaso, L. Makola, I. Naidoo, L. L. Mlangeni, S. Jooste and L. Simbayi, state, "Gender and racial disparities rooted in structural and contextual inequalities remain important factors for the maintenance of the generalised HIV epidemic in the country."
WHAT IS TROPIC DOING TO HELP?
Since 2017, Tropic and our Ambassadors have supported The Winnie Mabaso Foundation, a charity based just outside Johannesburg, South Africa. Together with our Ambassadors, we've collectively donated over £250,000.
This has allowed many initiatives to run, including support for the raising of 23 incredible girls who've been abused, abandoned and orphaned before joining the Mabaso family. Many of these children are living with HIV and other health issues, but thanks to The Winnie Mabaso Foundation, are now growing up to reach their full potential.
By continuing to raise awareness of poverty, and opening up access to education and healthcare services such as contraception and antiretroviral treatment for young women, we can hope to achieve an HIV-free future for all.
If you're a black, gay man in the American South, your risk of contracting HIV is one in two, however, if you're white in the same area, it's one in eleven. Leah Green travels to Atlanta, Georgia, which has the largest gay and black community in the country, to find out how stigma, education and structural racism continue to feed into this startling statistic. Click the image above to watch.
Please note, this video contains strong language.
This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat – a dangerous enemy. When we're divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us. — Tedros Adhanom