Racial Justice Index: Key takeaways

This is a summary of the Racial Justice Index. View the full report. To view AIDS United key takeaways, view here.


AIDS United’s Public Policy Council updated its operating principles in 2018 to thoroughly integrate racial justice into all aspects of its work. At the insistence of Black HIV advocates and with unanimous support of the Public Policy Council, AIDS United launched the creation of an index that would measure each participating organization’s responsiveness to racial justice.

There was a consensus to center Blackness in the survey, as race in the United States is structured around a racial hierarchy that created and perpetuates the white and Black binary to justify the oppression of Black bodies. This system marginalizes anyone who is not white and thus, anti-Blackness also negatively impacts non-Black communities of color. AIDS United and our Public Policy Council began implementing the index in the fall of 2022 and applied the meaningful involvement of people living with HIV principle from the inception of the index.

Between November 2022 and March 2023, 472 people from 22 organizations submitted responses to the index’s survey.


Index results found organizations on average are well informed by the meaningful involvement principles that established that people living with HIV have the right to participate and be centered in decisions that impact us and our communities. Organizations scored highest in the direct service category on average because they are committed to offering accessible services and prioritizing access to the communities most impacted by HIV.

However, there was a stark contrast in participating organization’s external commitments to racial justice through their direct service partnerships and their ability to articulate internal processes and systems that support Black staff members.

Four out of every five respondents believed their organizations are in an action state of providing racial justice training to staff. This reality, however, has not translated into effective practices and procedures that support Black staff or our racial justice efforts. Qualitative responses underscore this inconsistency, as participants across organizations noted their racial justice offerings are no longer offered, inconsistently offered or could be improved by retaining Black racial justice consultants to deliver those trainings.

Results demonstrated some organizations have not prioritized providing mentoring opportunities for staff to hone their skills and to advance in the field. This gap is harmful for Black staff, who navigate anti-Black and white supremacist societal structures that either limits or excludes access to educational and professional networks that can enhance one’s ability to advance in the workplace. The gap is a difficult hurdle for Black transgender and cisgender women and Black LGBTQ people at-large.

Further, more than a quarter of respondents believe their organizations are in a state of inaction about:

  • Salary and wage justice.
  • Cultivating an environment where staff want to continue working at their organizations
  • Curating a seamless onboarding process for new staff.

Notably, 25% of respondents are unsure if their organizations provide specific emotional wellness resources for Black staff to cultivate a culture of communal care.

Participating organizations scored the lowest in the data collection and use category, with a third of respondents selecting unsure across all questions in that category. The qualitative results detail that organizations vary quite considerably in data collection methods.

Aggregated scores by category

A graph showing each category the Racial Justice Index and the overall readiness of organizations. Data collection and use: Inaction, 43%; action 57%. Partnerships: 35% inaction; 65% action. Education and awareness: 28% inaction; 72% action. Workforce Strengthening: 28% inaction; 72% action. Direct service: 14% inaction; 86% action. Policies and procedures: 33% inaction; 67% action.


The results indicate that our field’s collective understandings about racial justice approach performativity and tokenism. Our efforts to engage and hire Black people are not yet appropriately solidified into policies that support those same staff members. Highlights of considerable concern for participating organizations include: a lack of tangible opportunities for advancement and mentorship; salaries that afford people the ability to thrive; and a lack of clarity around whether organizations provide atmospheres of communal care for Black staff.