December 1 marks World AIDS Day, and with it comes the opportunity to not only support and advocate for the 34 million people who are currently living with HIV and AIDS worldwide, but also work to erase the factors that lead to new infections. In the United States, 38 percent of the 1.2 million people living with HIV and AIDS are people of color, and they represent an disproportionate 72 percent of new infections (per 2013 data, the latest year available).
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett and sister Jurnee Smollett-Bell (the upcoming “Underground”) have long advocated in this field through their work with the Black AIDS Institute. In an interview with NBCBLK, they talk about the importance of getting involved today and every day. The full video is worth a watch, but a key point is when Jussie discusses why health activism needs to be a part of the discussion when we talk about the value of Black lives:
If Black lives really matter, and all of us, and all of y’all really believe that Black lives matter, what does that mean to you? You can’t pick and choose when Black lives matter and when they don’t matter when it’s convenient for your own beliefs. So what does it really mean? Does it mean that Black lives matter, but not gay Black lives? Does it mean that Black lives matter, but not Black women? Does it mean that Black lives matter, but not Black people that are suffering from HIV and AIDS, not Black people that feel misunderstood? No. No, no, no, no, no. You don’t get to pick and choose. Don’t spew that from your mouth if it is tinged with lies. Don’t do that. Because your point is not well taken if you do not firmly have your feet planted in the ground of truly, black lives matter.