I want to get back to your HIV treatment. How difficult is it for you to adhere to treatment?
It isn't hard at all.
I think the hardest thing for me, it was up until this year: I cried every night that I'd take pills. I literally sat in my bathroom. It was like a ritual. I knew I was going to cry. I knew I was going to go to bed depressed. Because I don't ever want to take vitamins! But now I've got to take a pill with somebody's pharmaceutical company name on it? You know, really?
If there was a ... you know, the microphone would go to my stomach right now, there are still side effects. It's attainable. It's feasible. It's not as perfect as having a clean bill of health.
And so I just want to talk quickly about stigma, as well. What does stigma look like in your life?
Putting me in the box and closing it up; and marking me just as what you want to say, which is your truth.
Your perception: it is not a truth. Perception. But moreover, I think that if people really understand that stigma kills, and not physically -- because people are so mentally killed by stigma that this infectious disease takes away their infectious ability to smile, their infectious ability to be loved, their infectious ability to love, their infectious ability to want to be productive individuals in society ... even to be a global citizen.
For me, stigma is my gasoline. Because whatever someone said is a stigma, I want to make sure that I attack it so that we can clear out some weeds, so we can actually do something right, and not wrong.
What has dating been like since you've tested positive? Same?
Same. I think the main thing; I think the most humbling thing: I was speaking at a university, and I got that question. And a young lady stood up and she said, "I'm be honest. I can't kick it with no dude who got HIV. Like, you're cute, you know, you got good word in you. But ... uh-uh."
And another girl stood up and she said, "I know you. And you've been beat up by your boyfriend."
"You've been talked about by your boyfriend. And you know a whole bunch of other things that your boyfriend did. And this black man is saying, 'I got this. My closet doors are open. You know my business. There's no skeletons in my closet. I'm dangling right here.'" She said, "I'd date you. Because I know about HIV. I'm educated about it. I know how I can prevent myself from getting it. And I know how you can prevent yourself from giving it to me."
And I took that away. And what she said to me, in front of everyone else, was, "As long as you keep your doors open and keep telling your truth ..." It has ever been an issue because I'm never going to steer someone wrong. I've been on dates where it went from me courting to me being an educator. And I'm OK with that. Because I'd rather -- if I dont date a person -- I'd rather them walk away knowing that they've been affected by HIV, so they won't be infected by HIV.
And so then my final question is: What is your advice to people who have just been diagnosed with HIV?
Live. When it's all said and done, when it seems like it just is not getting any better ... live. I consistently look at people who dont have the artillery to live ... who are deaf, blind. I'm not there. And I think that we've gotten to a place where we want to tell people what they can't be, and not what they can be. And not many people are simply saying, "Just live."
It's not going to be easy. Life isn't easy -- with HIV or without HIV. But, live. I dont think many people, newly infected people, know how to live. Because they thought that they were living, bumping and grinding. That's not living. That's giving yourself away to humanity. And then when you come back, and when you wake up, you have nothing left ... because you gave away everything.
I think that that has to be it.
Let's just live. Well, with that, this interview comes to a close. Thank you so much. So amazing. Thank you.
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. She is currently the health reporter for BET.com.