Empowering Partnerships: Melanated Movement and the empowering partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities 

AIDS United’s Melanated Movement and the My Sister’s Keeper initiative, led by the Black Women’s Health Imperative have joined forces to redefine the narrative for young Black women living with and vulnerable to HIV. 

This exciting initiative, sponsored by ViiV Healthcare’s Risk to Reasons campaign and Merck Pharmaceuticals, is all about creating awareness, smashing stereotypes and ensuring that young Black women live vibrant, stigma-free lives. 

Melanated Movement’s initiative curated content—featuring Black women who have diverse lived experiences, including advocates and health care professionals—aims to empower individuals to take charge of their health and well-being, break the chains of stigma and embrace their freedom without shame. 

The partnership with the Black Women’s Health Imperative makes a spectacular impact within the My Sister’s Keeper cohorts and their communities. Melanated Movement is proud to have supported the 2023-2024 My Sister’s Keeper cohorts. 

These cohorts — located at prestigious institutions like Morgan State University, Spelman College, Howard University and A&M College — empower Black women aged 18 to 30 with leadership skills. They will use the ViiV Healthcare’s Risk to Reasons Toolkit to share their experiences and engage with their campuses, raising awareness about Black women’s role in HIV care. 

The courageous cohort: Morgan State

Morgan State’s AIDS lock-in is an annual tradition, hosted since the early 1990s. As a historically Black college in Baltimore, Maryland, the event falls squarely into Melanated Movement’s core focus. Through various skits and activities, students work together to dispel misinformation and stigma in a supportive environment. Morgan State’s history as a historically Black college or university (HBCU) provides an avenue of trust and support, especially at a time when HIV rates within the Black community are higher than any other counterpart.   

This lock-in concentrates on two key aspects: awareness and youth advocacy. Awareness is more than just knowledge of the disease. Awareness is also about using the opportunity to dispel stereotypes (such as HIV only affecting men who have sex with men or people who use drugs) and promote learning about health within community settings. By building a dialogue with friends, students and trusted organizations, health becomes another essential community asset. Events such as this annual lock-in provide life-long knowledge that peers can pass on to other peers. Knowledge is a critical tool in ending the HIV epidemic, as it aids in prevention and support.   

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 report “HIV 101”, which offers a specific focus on universities and prevention within, “Widespread misperception of risk is among the greatest barriers to advancing HIV prevention, treatment, and care among college and university students because it can lead to ill-informed risk-taking and subsequent HIV transmission.”   

“Melanated Movement is ecstatic to continue contributing to community learning for women, youth and allies in health justice,” program manager Carli Gray says. “Our approach to sexual wellness and ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. is pivotal to how we shift the narrative. As we uplift stories of powerful perseverance, we exemplify to communities that woman will thrive throughout the epidemic and we look forward to inviting more people into the movement. 

The Melanated Movement is an initiative within AIDS United with a particular focus on uplifting health and wellness for Black women of all experiences. It tackles education, awareness and misinformation, alongside HIV prevention by fostering safe platform for women to tell their stories. Solutions for those in care are also a major focus. It is critical our youth understand that HIV is not a death sentence, and a positive diagnosis does not negate living long, healthy and fulfilled lives beyond any diagnosis.   

A skit in progress at the Morgan State University AIDS lock-in. Photo credit to See Through My Lens: Photography and Videography.

To stay connected and be part of the movement to end HIV stigma in the United States, follow the Melanated Movement on AIDS United’s social media platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter/X and YouTube

Join us in making a difference and creating a brighter future where Black women, regardless of their HIV status, can live free from shame, embrace their bodily autonomy and define their own stories.