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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Monday Reflection: I CAN'T With Nasty Ass UGLY!

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

July 2, 2012

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

I CAN'T! I just CAN'T with these people! Be CLEAR, I moved beyond the shame of having HIV when I appeared on the cover of Essence magazine! The NASTY ASS UGLY that comes to me on this blog, is sickening! It only shows me how fucking far we have got to go. When I woke up this morning at 5:30 this comment was waiting for me. I glanced at my e-mails and I couldn't go back to sleep.

Here's the comment:

"my husband and i were sitting here laughing at your story bout how you want a man, seriously doe ... and he said that you need to seal that nasty pussy off for good! for real doe, nobody will take you seriously, and only a crazy man would accept that funky thang girl! thats fo real, but keep on postin yo biz if it makes u feel better an dont be mad when i post back. feel sorry for u honey your life seems to sux"

So it's 5:51 and I'm going to try to write this blog before I explode. I'm not going to reduce this response to my pussy, all I'm going to say about that is, tell me that shit or any man that I have dated, face to face. Be CLEAR, I am not responding for me, I'm responding for EVERY Person who is living with HIV/AIDS in the world. I have a lot of international people who read my blog with HIV and I will NOT allow you to make them feel little or deter them from coming back.

I am not ashamed of one part of me, not my face, or my vagina. Are we still living in the dark ages? I know some of you will say, it's just her, the one that made the comment. I should ignore her. She's small; yes she and her husband are small. They seem like a perfect match. #ForReal. But at the end of the day, all it takes is for one small person to sling hate to make it OK and if we stay silent in the face of hate before you know it, Hitler is ruling. If I weren't so mad I would cry.


This comment speaks volumes to why people with HIV do not disclose their HIV status, even to their family until they are on their death bed. I'm not talking about with their sexual partners; statics show that the majority of people with HIV will tell and do tell their partners. It's a mutual secret that they both live with. I know that to be true in my own life. I did that the first seven years that I knew my HIV status. I told men that I dated, but in 7 years I only told 7 friends that I had HIV, and no family, as little family as I had at the time.

The shame we feel is insurmountable. To know that you have this infection inside of you, this health condition that people despise and you can't get rid of is a heavy load to carry daily. The fear of rejection and judgments is like a cast iron skillet lying on your heart.

Ok, let me be honest, I just stopped writing and cried. I cried for every person living with HIV in secret; for every person living with HIV alone. I cried for the 63 year old woman who has written me, but has told NO one that she has HIV. I cried for the 43 year old woman whose mother takes her to the clinic, but won't go in. I cried for my Soror, who is living in secret and feels isolated. I cried for the man from Uganda who wrote me to say, my blog helps him not feel so alone.

I cried for my girlfriend Wunadra, a doctor herself, who was too ashamed to allow her colleagues to see her take her medication. Who never told her pastor, although she and her husband (who is HIV negative) were leaders in the church. The shame killed her. Inconsistency in her treatment because of fear of being found out, made her HIV resistant and aggressive and that killed her.

I cried for my best friend from high school Tory who was too ashamed to disclose his HIV status, he would wear baggy clothes in public and pee in a jar at night so his roommate wouldn't see how thin he had become. AIDS ravaged his body and the shame kept him so isolated that he didn't seek help. When they took him to the hospital there were jars of urine under the bed. We all learned his HIV status when he was hospitalized and he died a week later. I promised him on his death bed that I would give him voice through my story until the day I die.

I was working on this blog yesterday morning, but I had to step away from it and get my spirit and attitude right. I don't want what I say to be about the attack on me and my right or ability to date. Honestly, my feelings were really hurt and my BFF Markeeda said that people have said worse things to me on this blog and they have.

This comment took me back to everything I thought those first years that I learned that I had HIV. No one would want me. No one should want me! Who would hire me? What would people think of me? Will they see me as a whore? Will all my RESPECTABILITY go out the window with HIV? I knew if Mama learned that I had HIV it would serve as more fuel for her denial. Instead of addressing the fact that her husband was a sick pervert, I would continue to be the whore in her mind. All of these things made me guard my health condition with my life and all the energy I could muster up. I spent more energy guarding my secret, rather than learning about HIV and what was happening to me. I wouldn't dare read an article on HIV for fear that someone would think I had HIV from just reading about it.

HIV is the modern day leprosy, we just wear our shame on the inside and it is sealed in our hearts. The shame is a heavy burden. This has got to CHANGE! People are living with HIV in 2012, thirty-two years into the pandemic in shame, in secret and alone.

This is the attitude that isolates people with HIV. It also undergirds misinformation and misunderstanding about HIV. Men in Africa who think they can "cleanse" themselves if they rape a virgin baby girl. In the U.S. things are not that much different. In the South where the numbers have surged, there is still so much misunderstanding. People are isolated in their own families, churches and community.

If you think I don't have the right to date that's one thing, but to tell me I'm nasty is another thing. To say only a crazy man would date me, is to suggest because I have HIV no one should love me or want to be with me; and by the way, with advancements in treatment for HIV/AIDS, it's about a 2% chance that a person will become infected if their partner is on HIV medication and their viral load is non-detectable. It's those people who don't know their status that drive the infection rate higher.

To tell me that my life sucks, gives me no hope to live. This attitude forces people with HIV underground. It speaks to the core of how people feel about this disease and places a ball and chain on our ankles.

This is also one reason people don't go get tested for HIV. Who would want to know their HIV status when people feel this way about people with HIV? Its like a life of doom in people's minds. Having to deal with the day-to-day of the illness, then turn around and deal with the attitudes of people while trying to care for yourself at the same time is overload.

The fact that people don't go get tested only drives the infection rate up. Be clear, this is a problem in the African-American community. We are 53% of all HIV cases in the United States and only 13% of the population. About 38% of all newly diagnosed cases of HIV are people infected by people who don't know their HIV status.

Also, most African-Americans discover their status when they are already sick and transitioned to AIDS. Which means they have been living with HIV somewhere between 7-10 years? As a result, we don't benefit from the treatment and care like our white counterparts. The earlier you know your HIV status, the longer you live, but who wants to know in a world of this? The sad thing is this woman and her husband are not the only ones who think this way, she was just bold enough to say it, at least in writing. She would probably never say it to my face.

When are we going to stop this madness? When are we going to be a beacon of light in this world? My friend Robert, a minister himself, said after I read this comment to him, that he bet she is in someone's church this morning and I wouldn't doubt it.

The kind of judgments and the way they are presented on this blog to me are mind blowing and often it's from someone who is setting me straight in the name of Jesus. Jesus was all about love, LOVE! Jesus never turned anyone away. NOT ONE! The woman caught in adultery, the woman who anointed His feet with oil, the thief dying on the cross, Jesus extended himself without judgments. He didn't tell the thief you gotta promise you ain't gonna sin no more, he simply said, "Today you shall be with me in paradise." That's so powerful, POWERFUL! And it's our example, even in dying He left us an example on how to treat people.

When are we going to GET IT? My father in ministry Rev. Clay Evans use to say, "Don't be so heavenly bound you are no earthly good." When are we going to get it? We are our brother/sisters keeper? When did the African-American community become so cold and selfish? When did the Black Church become about how much we can get from God, rather than how much we can give to God's people?

Jesus only gave two commandments in His earthy ministry. The leaders of CHURCH got together to challenge the ministry of Jesus. The Bible said that after the Sadducees had attempted to challenge Jesus and failed the Pharisees, "Gathered their focus for an attack." One of them an expert in the law, tested him with this question, "Teacher which it the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Faced with the Law in front of him, Jesus gave TWO commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with your soul and with your mind. The Message translation says, "With all your passion and prayer and intelligence."

This is the first of the greatest commandant. And the second is like it, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Message translation says, "Love thy neighbor as well as yourself." (Matthew 23:34-39)

When are we really gonna start living the Word over and above getting people straight on the Word? When are we going to become that village again that we once were? Does your family member live with HIV in isolation? Is your family and home an environment that permits them to talk about their status? Do you know their T-cell count and viral load? Why haven't you asked? Do you know how many pills they take? I bet if they had any other medical condition you would inquire and be as supportive as you can. We either get silence on the one hand, or ugly on the other. This isolation is a death sentence, not AIDS.

What is your church doing? With the rate of HIV/AIDS in the black community you cannot tell me it's not in our churches and family. This disease is killing us, make no mistakes, and the ugly and the silence is fuel that speeds up and spreads this disease.

I've had enough of the ugly and I will no longer brush it off. I will tackle it head on. The Hitlers of this world must be STOPPED! When are we going to be the CHANGE? #IcantdoitAlone Together WE can be the Change! It starts in our hearts and flows to our family, home, churches and organizations.

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See Also
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Lovey (Everywhere God is) Thu., May. 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm UTC
I AM SENDONG YOU LOVE! Thank you for this blog I just took an HIV test and tested negative. But I do have herpes. I was married for a long time and now am free to date again. I took the test because the man I was with for a year had a fondness for strippers. And we were both in a Baptist church. I was thinking no one will ever love me or want to be with me. Right now just reading your blog I see I first need to truly love me. And the confirmation that I was in Love and wrong choices were made. I love your wit, honesty and humor. I thank you for making me smile today. I LOVE YOU
everyone cannot handle you because you are so honest and we as women, any color and any faith need to wake up and listen to women like yourself. This is "for real, for real".
Thank you
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Comment by: mary (charleston,sc) Fri., Jan. 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm UTC
HOW DARE THEY!!!! I read your blog a lot and think the strength and poise you show is truly beautiful please please please keep posting.You are a hero!!!
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Comment by: mary (charleston,sc) Fri., Jan. 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm UTC
HOW DARE THEY!!!! I read your blog a lot and think the strength and poise you show is truly beautiful please please please keep posting.You are a hero!!!
Reply to this comment

Comment by: Wendy (Philly metro area, NJ) Sat., Jul. 14, 2012 at 12:01 am UTC
What a vicious and hateful thing to say to anyone for any reason! No one deserves to be treated that way. The degree of hate and avarice in our country in recent years has grown to explosive levels. I never fully appreciated how accepting my parents were until they were both gone. No matter the problems I might have had growing up, the one lesson that was consistent was that everyone has value and no one is to be treated differently than anyone else. My HIV+ friend pointed your article out to me, specifically the comment you presented. To him it was proof that he'd never be treated fairly in life. He's been talking about not wanting to live. Yet, your entire article was proof to me, at least, that one can still have a full life that is useful and fulfilling despite the existence of these kinds of people and opinions. I think the whole thing centers around personal value, self-worth. You are a strong woman who doesn't intend to allow this to stop your progression through life, even though you periodically mourn the barriers it creates. He has been tempted to give up since being diagnosed 13 years ago and lately it's gotten worse. I do the best I can to get him to accept help beyond the meds that work very well for him, but his emotional being is deteriorating before my eyes. It's both maddening and concerning. He's my best friend. I don't want to lose him. I want to get through to him to get additional help. I want him to be strong as you are strong - secure in who he knows he is so that he is better able to deal with any adversity he might encounter. I'm sure he won't approve that I left this comment, but I felt I had to. I want the societal stigma of this virus to be eliminated. I want everyone to be treated and accepted equally. It hurts knowing that people have such hate without making any effort to try to understand.
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Comment by: Jeannie Wraight (Bronx) Fri., Jul. 13, 2012 at 11:34 am UTC
There's nothing more beautiful then a strong confident women who has the substance to support that confidence. Whether it's HIV or something else, people will always find a reason to hate. That being said, as a blogger, it's hard to deal with ugly comments. We're putting ourselves out there and with that comes a level of vulnerability as we're opening ourselves up to other peoples comments and judgement. There are some truly ugly people in the world but there are much more good people who appreciate what you do. The best we can do is know that that are people who find comfort in our words and for those who'd rather hate, just let it roll.....
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Comment by: Anonymous Sat., Jul. 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm UTC
I have to say that I dont believe that it is justified to be ugly or hateful to anyone at anytime. HIV/AIDS a matter that is very important to me for many many reasons. But it really bothers me that people have taken comfort in blaming others for choices that we make. What I mean by this specifically is that I think that it is an idealogical mistake for an HIV positive person to blame the world for how he/she chooses to handle their reality. The world is cold and cruel, that is undeniable. But if one chooses to not disclose his/her status, if one chooses not to take his medication, if a man on the down low chooses to be on the down low, the fact is, this is that person's choice. We are responsible for our own choices and accountable for our own rights and wrongs, whatever they may be. I is very unhealthy and ineffective to have this mind-set. It is time for we as people to take ownership of our choices. At the end of the day it is in your power to choose to do what is right or to do what is wrong; to do what is healthy, or to do things that are not healthy. If you are HIV positive, please realize that YOUR world will have changed to this diagnosis, but THE world will not. This disease is killing us [I am an african american woman], and I want us to be healed. We have got get passed the need for affirmation on move towards the desire for truth. And the truth is we have got to start making better choices. Disclose your status! If we all did this, trust me, the stigma would decrease! Your shame is YOUR issue to overcome, not someone else's to give you or to take from you. Take your medication, please! By doing this you not only take the opportunity to control your health, but you edify the concept of HIV being a chronic illness to which you have every right to seek medical care! DL men, get real and realize that it is an extremely selfish and inexcusable thing that you do and there is no way around that. HIV is here, but so are we. So,who wins?
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Comment by: Crys (SunnyAss, FL) Fri., Jul. 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm UTC
Lately, your blogs have left me somber. It seems since all the DST/Countdown to 50 - you have been in defense mode. It saddens me, because your voice has been the voice of defense for so many people, this dreadful disease & simply what's right! Saddens me, that although you have ample amount of people that love & supports you - some I feel no one DEFENDS you. Whether we are capable, informed or dare to entertain the notion, it doesn't hurt when someone defends us. I just can't stand how people would purposely tear you down, but want me to come out & rally against ZIMMERMAN. How do they want me to stand side by side with them against Romney?? Even fellowship with me in the same pews, yet SPEW hate! Just like the TRUTH is the TRUTH, so is HATE & all it's many forms, bottomline it is just HATE! I'm at work, I couldnt finish your blog but had to touch base with you & let you know I will defend YOU & the work that YOU do to bring awareness and because of your love for the truth.

*these 3-fold paper towels here @ work is hard on a sister's eyes* LOL!

Let me regroup... will try to tweet you later.

Nothing but Sister Love for U!!

~~~ the Naked Truth
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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on about Rae's social media activities.

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