Celebrating Rep. Barbara Lee and the Black Women Who Helped Shape the AIDS Movement

March 18, 2024

Following Black History Month and during Women’s History Month, it is important to honor Black women who have championed efforts in ending the epidemic and have led the ongoing fight in ensuring healthcare equity and justice for all. Someone who has worn multiple hats both as an advocate and as a US policymaker is no other than Representative Barbara Lee.  

Throughout Rep. Lee’s close to three decades-long tenure as a member of the US House of Representatives, She has single-handedly created material change for people living with HIV and those at risk of infection, marginalization and stigmatization, both in the US and around the world. As AVAC’s executive director Mitchell Warren says, “when the definitive history of this pandemic is finally written, there is no greater shero in our collective story than Barbara Lee. The AIDS response wouldn’t be where it is today without her.” 

From co-authoring the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000 and establishing the framework for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to her instrumental work in drafting and passage of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to introducing legislation that would eventually lift the decades-old discriminatory HIV travel ban to the US, to her relentless efforts advocating to reform HIV/AIDS criminalization laws in the US, most recently with the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (REPEAL) HIV Discrimination Act, Rep. Lee has walked the walk. She put grassroots-led efforts at the center of US and global policy in relation to those directly impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

Thank you, Rep. Barbara Lee, for the legacy you have built in forging an AIDS-free generation and for centering impacted communities throughout your work. We look forward to your efforts as co-chair and co-founder of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus and a member of the full appropriations committee in continuing to support HIV/AIDS prevention, education, research and access to treatment while combatting stigma.   

In addition to celebrating the tireless advocacy of Rep. Barbara Lee during Women’s History Month, it’s important to name the Black women who have changed the course of the AIDS epidemic including, but of course not limited to Raniyah CopelandDázon Dixon DialloLeisha McKinley-BeachYvette Raphael, and those we honor in our everyday actions, Hydeia BroadbentKatrina HaslipDawn Smith, and the recently passed, Joan Gibbs