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Rae Lewis-Thornton: A Diva Talks About 25 Years on HIV Meds (Video)

September 24, 2012

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At what point did you start thinking, "I may not die. This is kind of working"?

"I crossed every T; I dotted every I; I had a doctor who cared -- who knew and understood HIV. And God kept me here to benefit from treatment and care."

Somewhere around '98. In '96, I was on my way out of here; '97 was protease inhibitors; '98, my now ex-husband started to get a little attitude. I'd gone from a size 0 to a size 6, and had to buy new clothes. I could see something in my ex-husband's demeanor. And I kept wondering. And he was, like, angry.

That you were living?

I kept trying to figure it out. And one day it hit me: He'd married me to watch me die! He said this: "You're my ministry. You're my purpose. I'm going to watch you die and I'm going to go around the country to talk about what it was like." And I said, "Damn, I'm living!"

I started to accept that maybe, just maybe, these medicines would keep me here a little bit longer. And that was '98.

I went from Crixivan to another regimen, and that worked even better. And it was like, whoa! And I could get off all of those prophylactic medicines. I didn't have to take Bactrim anymore for PCP. I mean, wow! It was a shock. Because I had prepared for death; I had not prepared for living. I hadn't saved any money. My credit cards: I was living large. I hadn't thought about what my future would be. It forced me to sit down and think about what my life would be like beyond where I was at, living day to day.

Because when you have AIDS and you're this sick, you are really living day to day. Because you never know what's going to hit you next, or how it's going to hit you, or how that day is going to be.

So you started living. And clearly, this husband became your ex-husband.


He sure did. And that was ... that was hard. Because I had told women he was the best thing since sliced bread. And when I started to crisscross the country again, women wanted to know what happened. And I had to say that the bread molded, and I moved on.

But honestly, if AIDS hadn't killed me, Kenny wasn't going to kill me. So I kept it moving. And I started to really think about, really, my purpose, and what God wanted from me. It got me to a place where I accepted my call in ministry. I went to seminary; I got my Master of Divinity. I'm a delinquent Ph.D. student. But I started to do things that I thought that I would never do.

Even today: I'm designing bracelets now. I have this incredible bracelet line, RLT Collection. I'm doing things I never thought I'd do. I turned 50 in May. I turned 50 in May! I never thought that I would live past 33.

It's the most amazing thing. And people say, "How did you do it?"

I say, "You know what? I crossed every T; I dotted every I; I had a doctor who cared -- who knew and understood HIV. And God kept me here to benefit from treatment and care."

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.

Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
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This article was provided by TheBody. It is a part of the publication This Positive Life.

See Also
Rae Lewis-Thornton: A Diva Talks About Living With HIV/AIDS (Video Series)
More Personal Accounts of Older People With HIV/AIDS


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