This story was developed in part with research gathered by Marie Tagbo, writer, content creator, activist, and former Communities of Color and Media Intern.
Today, February 7, is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). NBHAAD serves as a day of recognition and acknowledgement for the ways the HIV epidemic disproportionately affects Black communities, especially across the U.S. South.
Since NBHAAD was first observed in 1999, the observance day has served as a catalyst to increase HIV testing, education, treatment, and community involvement. Over the past 25 years, many community-based organizations and leaders have risen to the occasion, doing their part to educate their communities, families, and friends about the epidemic and combating stigma and misinformation.
HIV.gov, an organization whose managing sponsor is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), shared a 2024 theme for NBHAAD: “Engage, Educate, Empower: Uniting to End HIV/AIDS in Black Communities.” While so many Black and Black LGBTQ people and organizations have united to engage, educate, empower, and care for the community, joining forces with other organizations to end the HIV epidemic and its disproportionate impact in Black communities, much of the work they’ve done has gone unseen or unheard of by the larger American public.
Too often, this happens specifically to Black women, who are failed and deprived of the acknowledgement, accolades, and respect that they deserve when they deserve it: during their lifetimes. To rectify that this NBHAAD, GLAAD is specifically honoring and highlighting some of the amazing Black women who are still dedicating their time and work to ending the HIV epidemic, while also giving flowers to the inspirational women who are no longer with us
We acknowledge that this list is not comprehensive, as there are so many hardworking activists and advocates whose importance and impact in this world cannot be overstated. Be sure to honor the Black women you see in your everyday lives who are doing the work, and continue to correct HIV-related misinformation, stigma, and hate when you see it.
Read more about a few of these inspiring advocates below:
Representative Maxine Waters has been a strong ally and champion to the HIV community since the 1980s. As a Member of the Congress and past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, she co-led efforts to establish the Minority AIDS Initiative in 1998, which significantly expanded HIV/AIDS prevention, screening, and treatment efforts among racial and ethnic minorities. Representative Waters was the keynote speaker at the 2023 U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS in Washington D.C.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, often referred to as Miss Major, is a longtime activist, author, and community organizer. Her book Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Trans Revolutionary documents her life and achievements through a series of transcripted conversations with Toshio Meronek. Miss Major Speaks illuminates Miss Major’s own historic and numerous contributions to combating HIV/AIDS and its impacts as well as highlights the efforts of innumerable other Black trans women who began caring for people living with HIV/AIDS at the height of the epidemic.
Deon Haywood is a human rights defender, activist, and educator. Her work involves combating discrimination and has centered on advocacy around issues such as poverty, sex work criminalization, the unique discriminatory practices that Black women face, and expanding access to healthcare and HIV treatment and prevention resources for residents living across the U.S. South. Her mother co-founded Women With a Vision, where Deon has worked to connect those living with HIV to supportive resources.
Marvelyn Brown is an author and activist. In 2006, she founded Marvelous Connections, an HIV/AIDS service organization, bringing accurate HIV awareness and education to youth. In 2009, she published The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive, which tells her story as a young Black woman living with HIV.
Hydeia Broadbent is an HIV/AIDS activist who started speaking about living with HIV at a young age, as she was born undiagnosed. Throughout her career, she has made numerous strides in bringing about greater awareness and education surrounding HIV, including appearances on a Nickelodeon special with Magic Johnson, features in Essence, and involvement in screening drives.
Dazon Dixon Diallo is the Founder and President of SisterLove, Inc. Established by Diallo in 1989, SisterLove was the first women’s HIV, sexual and reproductive justice organization in the U.S. Southeast. Over the 35+ years she has been working within advocacy, Dazon Dixon Diallo has become a recognized visionary and advocate, and has received multiple awards while working within the fields of liberation, health justice, and human rights.
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy award-winning author and activist. She rose to national acclaim after gracing the cover of Essence in 1994 and becoming one of the first Black women to openly tell her story of living with HIV.
Patricia Nalls is a global activist and the Founder and Executive Director of The Women’s Collective, an organization dedicated to advocating for the health and human rights of girls and women. The collective aims to meet the needs of low income women, girls, and families living with, or at risk for, HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
Linda Scruggs is an educator, activist, community leader, and the Founding Director of Ribbon Consulting Group, a consulting firm led by Black women living with HIV that provides consulting services to community-based organizations, health departments, and hospitals.
Waheedah Shabazz-El is a community organizer, activist, and a founding member of Positive Women’s Network. She is currently part of the steering committee for The Reunion Project and previously delivered the closing address at the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
Gina Brown has worked in the field of HIV for more than 15 years and has been living with HIV for more than 23 years. She is a former member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and currently works as a community organizer with Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC).
Susan Cole-Haley, FRSA is an award-winning broadcaster, public speaker, writer, and HIV activist whose work battles health inequity and misinformation.
Marsha P. Johnson was one of the most prominent figures during the earliest days of the LGBTQ movement in the 1960s. In addition to being a fiercely outspoken activist for LGBTQ liberation, she founded the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform (S.T.A.R.R) and advocated tirelessly on behalf of people living with HIV.
Loren Jones was a founding member of Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN-USA) and a passionate advocate who centered Black people, those from low-income backgrounds, and women in her activism. A Black woman living openly with HIV, Loren fought to elevate the information surrounding how the HIV epidemic impacts Black communities and served in multiple leadership roles across the Bay Area.
Juanita Williams was a founding member of PWN-USA and an advocate for human rights, reproductive justice, and intersectionality. Juanita helped to co-found the reproductive justice movement and was heavily involved in SisterSong (a reproductive justice collective for women of color), Sisterlove, Inc, and global HIV and women’s rights movements.
Deloris Dockery worked to champion HIV causes and was an expert in HIV policy, especially within the Health Resources & Services Administration’s (HRSA) Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program – the largest federal program designed for people with HIV. Deloris also successfully ran the One Conversation Project, a community action campaign and public education campaign for AIDS prevention, and was heavily involved in national and global advocacy spaces, including the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus, serving as the chair of the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, and representing North America on the International Steering Committee of the International Community of Women Living with HIV.
Janetta Johnson is a transgender rights activist, human rights activist, prison abolitionist, and transgender woman. She is the current CEO and former Executive Director of the Transgender, Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) and worked closely with Miss Major to devote time and energy to the organization. Janetta and TGIJP co-founded the first ever Transgender Cultural District and Taja’s Coalition, offering safety and accountability for Black and Brown trans people.
Sharmus Outlaw advocated for the rights and liberation of trans people, sex workers, and people living with HIV. She was an indomitable policy advocate, working with Best Practices Policy Project until the time of her passing to champion causes that centered on rights and access to healthcare for trans communities.
For more information on how to stay informed and combat the HIV epidemic and HIV-related stigma in your own community, visit GLAAD’s website to explore our Global Resource Hub.