After false reports surfaced that Nicki Minaj was diagnosed with HIV, Twitter was flooded with posts using the hashtag "#pray4nicki" with fans asking for well-wishes for the hip-hop diva. The story of the hoax was first reported by the Epoch Times.
Of course, this is not the first time that "Nicki Minaj" and "HIV" have been used in the same sentence. Minaj was named spokesperson for MAC Cosmetic's Viva Glam campaign, which donates sales profits from its products toward HIV/AIDS relief efforts abroad. Nicki Minaj's MAC lipstick shade is the best-selling shade in the Viva Glam lipstick line's history. In appearances for the lipstick line, Minaj has spoken about the death of her uncle in Trinidad from HIV/AIDS, and reminded those listening that HIV/AIDS is not a "gay disease ... or an 'in the 80s' disease."
Hoaxes and the Internet are not strange bedfellows -- they practically go hand in hand. Plenty of celebrities, including young, white, male Justin Bieber, have been the targets of death hoaxes. But the fact that Nicki Minaj, a black woman, is the subject of a hoax pertaining to her HIV status smacks of casual racism. Could it be so easy to believe a rumor that she's HIV positive because she actively discusses her sex life -- a sex life that, as a black woman, is subject to stigma -- and because black women shoulder a disproportionate burden in this epidemic?
What do you think? Is the hoax harmless? Would a celebrity's race and gender have an effect on whether you'd believe a report about their HIV status? Could Nicki use this hoax as an opportunity to talk to her fans about safer sex, and the importance of knowing their HIV status?
Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.