California District Court Grants Judgment to HIV-Positive Man Denied Haircut at Los Angeles Barbershop

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Lambda Legal and Black AIDS Institute Cut the Stigma Campaign Kickoff Summer 2019
June 4, 2019

Today, Lambda Legal announced the Central District of California entered judgment for Nikko Briteramos against the owner of a Los Angeles barbershop who refused to cut Briteramos’ hair because he is living with HIV.

CUT THE STIGMA, a joint public education campaign launched last year by the Black AIDS Institute and Lambda Legal, will engage Black businesses, including barbershops, around the country this summer to dispel misconceptions surrounding the transmission of HIV and reduce HIV stigma and its resulting discrimination.

“This judgment is proof that what happened to me in that barbershop and what happens to people living with HIV who experience discrimination just trying to do basic things in life like go the dentist or get a haircut is simply not acceptable,” said Nikko Briteramos. “Such discriminatory practices harken back to times not too distant during the period of American ‘Jim Crow’, and are equally unjust.  I am even more grateful that I can continue to tell my story through the Cut the Stigma campaign and share with people how harmful these moments of discrimination can be to those living daily with HIV and to the fabric of society.”

“This ruling is a terrific affirmation for our client, and it is a clear and forceful rebuke of intentional discrimination against people living with HIV,” said Anthony Pinggera, the Lambda Legal Law Fellow leading this case. “This is the end of Nikko’s case, but our work to raise necessary awareness in Black communities around the country to the ongoing issues surrounding HIV discrimination continues through our partnership with the Black AIDS Institute on the Cut the Stigma campaign.”

“Nikko’s experience highlights how Black people living with HIV are confronted with discrimination every day, but this judgment puts businesses on notice that discrimination will not be tolerated. Freedom for Black people means that ALL Black people deserve to live without fear of discrimination,” said Raniyah Copeland, Black AIDS Institute CEO.

The incident occurred in October 2017 when Briteramos was denied service by the owner of the Leimert Park barbershop King of Kuts specifically because of his HIV status.  Having patronized the business several times before October 2017 without incident, Nikko was surprised when the circumstances changed after another barber in the shop, who knew Nikko previously, shared his HIV status with the owner.

In addition to Pinggera, Lambda Legal attorneys Taylor Brown and Stefan Johnson, along with HIV Project Director Scott Schoettes, handled the Briteramos matter for Lambda Legal.

To learn more about the CUT THE STIGMA campaign, visit https://blackaids.org/cutthestigma/

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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

The Black AIDS Institute, founded in May of 1999, is the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people. The Institute’s mission is to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black leaders, institutions and individuals, in efforts to confront HIV. BAI disseminates information; advocates for sound, inclusive, culturally responsive public and private sector health policies; offers training and capacity building; provides health screening for HIV/STI/Hep C and other chronic and/or infectious diseases, and linkage to comprehensive: and conducts advocacy and mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.

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