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New York City Radio DJ Suspended After HIV Remark

By Warren Tong

December 29, 2010

New York City radio station Hot 97 has indefinitely suspended one of its DJs, Cipha Sounds, following outrage over a controversial joke he made on the air on Dec. 17. During his morning show last Friday, Cipha Sounds, whose real name is Luis Diaz, told listeners, "The reason I'm HIV negative is because I don't mess with Haitian girls."

While he might have thought the comment would be forgotten by the next commercial break, it wasn't. Within hours, people from the Haitian community, local leaders and the general public launched phone complaints and angrily sounded off on the station's Twitter and Facebook pages.

In response to the complaints, later that day Diaz made an on-air apology and said, "I made a stupid, tasteless joke that was a one-liner that was taken totally the wrong way. I want to say sincerely that I apologize."

View his apology here:

But for some, his apology was not enough. That following Monday, a coalition of Haitian community groups, AIDS activists and politicians protested outside the Hot 97 offices in Tribeca calling for the DJ's removal. Among them were Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York State Senator Eric Adams and City Councilman Mathieu Eugene.


The protestors stressed that Diaz's "one-liner" resurrected feelings of discrimination from the 1980s when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that the AIDS epidemic in the United States was partially the fault of HIV-positive Haitian immigrants, thus declaring Haitians a high-risk group. And even though that myth was later debunked, stigma against Haitians has continued to linger on in this country. Several of the protestors said they remembered those times; when because of fear they wouldn't admit they were Haitian -- or even refer to their own Haitian-sounding names. According to WABC Eyewitness News, Carine Jocelyn, executive director at Diaspora Community Services, said, "Cipha Sounds, whatever his mom named him -- I don't know what his real name is -- is inappropriate. It's unacceptable. It's disgraceful."

On Wednesday, Dec. 22, the radio station responded to the protesting by suspending Diaz and instructing him to take sensitivity training about Haiti and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A Hot 97 representative explained that, "The suspension is an indication of the importance we place on delivering a product that respects our Haitian audience."

Still, the HIV/AIDS organization Housing Works is demanding that the radio station "develop an on-the-air HIV prevention education program designed to counteract Sounds' attack on Haitians, people with HIV and women," and it has posted several ways in which people can join its campaign. [UPDATE 12/29: According to Housing Works, within two days of the launch of its campaign, Hot 97 agreed to develop an on-the-air HIV prevention program. As a result, Housing Works removed the campaign from its Web site.]


Realistically, this comment could not have come at a worse time. In a year in which Haiti has been hit by a devastating earthquake, a pack of tropical storms, a cholera outbreak and a shoddy election -- on top of three decades of HIV discrimination -- he should have stayed as far away from this topic as possible.

Warren Tong is the research editor for and

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See Also
Spotlight Series: HIV Stigma & Discrimination
What Does HIV/AIDS Stigma Look Like in Your Life?
More News on HIV Stigma and Discrimination

Reader Comments:

Comment by: kulvinder Singh (Malaysia) Sun., Jun. 19, 2011 at 5:50 am UTC
well perhaps its just a slip of the tongue no fault of the mind just accept that may of us do the same
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Comment by: dave (Pa) Thu., Dec. 23, 2010 at 11:28 pm UTC
It is these kinds of statements about HIV made by folks that should show EVERYONE just how much stigma is still associated with HIV disease. This DJ typlifies the biased views held by many people 30 years into this epidemic! Yet the NIH et al wonder why people are still afraid to be tested; still afraid to disclose to others and still face persecution from people within the gay community. Healthcare professionals are the worst offenders of ths bias and I wonder why this still exists. HIPPA is a joke in terms of protecting peoples privacy and the so called "need to know" practice is a farce. So when the cerebral folks who write public policy about how to encourage people to get tested, those folks need to really reflect on all of the pitfalls and bias that still exists with the consequences of carring an HIV diagnosis and they will find the answer as to why people are reluctant to be tested. This DJ, unfortunately, represents the narrow mindedness that far too many people possess.
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Comment by: Joy Spencer (Washington DC ) Thu., Dec. 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm UTC
I suggest that everyone read "AIDS and Accusations" by Paul Farmer which addresses this entire myth of Haitians and HIV. A good book to debunk this pernicious stigma.
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