Today, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, is a day that is widely recognized, and I fail to use the term celebrated because I don’t see this as a celebration. It is a stark reminder that there is still so much work to do within my community in getting to no new infections. It is also a reminder that we have an accountability to ourselves and to each other for knowing our status in order to take better care of one another and ourselves. In this country, the Black community is the most impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I often wonder why this is still happening when there are so many prevention methods and tools in place.
The answer can be quite simple: opportunity. Some of us simply have not been afforded the opportunity to access preventative methods. Some of us are simply forgotten. Some of us are incarcerated and fighting for our freedom. Statistically speaking, that sex worker, that person in active addiction, that trans woman, from our youth to our elders – the entire Black community is at a higher risk of contracting HIV. Black people represent 12 percent of the U.S. populations but account for 50 percent of the HIV diagnosis in 2014. In addition to African-American men who have sex with men, many other demographics, such as Black cis and trans women, seem less visible in the movement to develop an effective response to HIV/AIDS. We must become more inclusive in our messages and strategies. That inclusivity should look like all of us fighting together. There is no big “I” and no little “you”. As a Black transwoman living with HIV in the South who has also been incarcerated, gone through addiction and performed survival sex work, I stand with all my sisters and brothers!
What this day means to me is that, for my part, I still have more work to do until the rest of my community realizes the value of our entire community. It means cis and trans, gay, straight and bi, young and old – everyone working together to fight for equitable resources and equal access to prevention and treatment. It means organizations actively engaging, investing in, and supporting the leadership of the most marginalized in our community in developing and implementing effective HIV responses. It means we won’t stop until our next generation is liberated from this epidemic.
Tiommi Luckett is a National Advisory Board member for TLC’s Positively Trans project and one of Plus magazine's 20 Most Amazing HIV Positive Women of 2015.