As the nation continues to mourn the death of George Floyd and as protests and demonstrations raise awareness about violence against black lives, the National AIDS Housing Coalition (NAHC) states its unequivocal support and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for radical anti-racist change in our nation.
As we listened to a man plead for breath under the knee of cruel white privilege – and the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Sean Reed and others—we have been reminded that white supremacy not only exists, it thrives and impregnates itself, and not-so-secretly. White supremacy is a disease for which there will never be a vaccine.
Our mandate is to advocate for those living with HIV/AIDS and housing as a critical form of care, and this is especially important for the black community. Of note, 69% of Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program clients are persons who are black.
As we observe black lives being violently extinguished by systemic police brutality, white supremacist violence, and societal racism, we also remind our constituents that the ugly disparities run yet deeper, into healthcare.
Black people have been killed by COVID-19 at 2.5 times the rate of the white population and, In 2018, adult and adolescent Blacks/African Americans accounted for 42% of all new HIV diagnoses (Hispanics/Latinos accounted for 27% of all new HIV diagnoses.)
Housing in America has been plagued by racism since our country’s inception. Redlining policies, blockbusting, and a lack of financial investment in black communities has perpetuated disenfranchisement of black people. We see this in inequalities in our education and transportation system and over-policing in communities of color. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “African Americans represent thirteen percent of the general population but are forty percent of people experiencing homelessness and more than fifty percent of homeless families with children. Black families are twenty-six percent of all extremely low-income renters.”
The HIV epidemic, housing availability and affordability, and racism are all woven closely together. NAHC Director of Policy Lauren Banks Killelea says, “The HIV epidemic is another nuanced form of racial injustice. Black lives are being just as endangered by poor access to healthcare and our lack of affordable housing infrastructure.”
“It’s a disgrace that in 2020 we not only have inequality of race, but disproportionate stigma, self-shame and societal disapproval of an HIV-diagnosis,” agrees Scott Pridgen, President of the NAHC Board. “All of the messaging about HIV-prevention and education will go unheard if poverty and other socioeconomic factors aren’t addressed.”
Words alone cannot undo this. We cannot remain neutral.
This will take time. As former President Barack Obama noted, “We don’t have the capacity to eradicate 400 years of racism in one fell swoop.”
Thirty years before that, Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it another way: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Awareness is no substitute for action. At the National AIDS Housing Coalition we are dedicated to the work of anti-racism and to advocating for affordable housing as a means of HIV prevention and treatment. Join us.