More Than Pushing Pills: Black AIDS Activism in the Bay Area
Antoine Johnson, PhD, Johns Hopkins University
September 11, 2023
SHM, 333 Cedar Street
Library Wing, Room 115
This talk examines Black AIDS activism and organizing in the Bay Area and how the layered crises of the crack cocaine epidemic, chronic joblessness, and poverty shaped HIV/AIDS prevention and education efforts. It also analyzes ways in which Black health activists confronted policymakers, local media outlets, and health professionals’ interventions that often conflicted with African Americans’ approaches to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention strategies. Many local public health officials and journalists suggested that only poor and working-class African Americans’ behavior—particularly that of drug users, sex workers, gay men and men who had sex with men (bud did not identify as gay)—placed them at risk for infection. Such an approach minimizes ways structural inequities contributed to disease susceptibility. As a result, Black activists and organizers paved the way for new, alternative, relevant methods of HIV/AIDS prevention, awareness, and outreach throughout the 1980s by contesting the (neo)liberalism of the local HIV/AIDS infrastructure. This talk tells part of that story.