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Shelton Jackson

January 2006

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Shelton Jackson

About Shelton Jackson

Table of Contents

Personal Bio

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live with my lover, Ken, in Baltimore. We have been together for four months. Baltimore is just ... black. But this is like the suburban part, right on the edge of the city -- four blocks up starts Baltimore County where it gets really nice. So I'm right on the edge of that. I need that security when I move anywhere because I can't be scared to walk out my front door.

I am doing a few different things: First and foremost, I just started my own publishing company, SSJ Publishing. I am also finishing up my third book of poetry, The Dawn of a New Day. Also, I am starting a magazine called Invisible, to be targeted to the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community of color on historically black college campuses across the nation. I'm also studying journalism at Morgan State University.

Where did you grow up?

Newark, New Jersey.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A teacher.

What kinds of work have you done?

My work experience, mostly, is in accounting. My longest actual job was in New Jersey at the African American Office of Gay Concerns as the administrative coordinator for them -- payroll, budgets and writing grants. I coordinated volunteers. You name it ... I did it. Now, here in Baltimore, just to supplement my income, I write for the local gay paper, Gay Life.

What work did your parents do?

My father was a garbage man, and my mom was a drug addict and an alcoholic -- she had a job here and there but never anything stable. My father was a functioning drug addict. He went to work Monday through Friday and on the weekend he did his drugs.

Who are the most influential people in your life?

Personally, Grandma ... hands down! My grandmother, my father's mother, made me realize what it means to actually love somebody regardless -- no clauses, no nothing -- just because you're family -- because I am an extension of her.

Professionally, it would have to be my old boss at the African American Office of Gay Concerns, Paul Wright. From day one it was a lesson on how to operate -- how to do HIV prevention, deal with kids, adults, the state, anything. Anything that I needed to do professionally, Gary Paul Wright taught me.

Are you a religious or spiritual person?

I am a spiritual person. I am not necessarily religious.

What are your feelings about the church?

Well, I grew up a Baptist. My grandmother took me to church every day. So once I realized that the people that they were talking about as devils was me, once I was old enough to say that I didn't want to go to church and not get sniped down to the floor, I stopped going. Then I tried to go back, but the more I listened, the more I realized that they were sitting up there talking about me. They want to call me a devil, they want to say that I am going to hell, and they want to say that my life is an abomination -- and then they want me to pay them! I was just like, "I'm not going to pay you to talk about me." That's just stupid. I'm just like, "That is the last thing that I will ever do. If I am going to go somewhere for a fellowship, it's not going where you can use the Bible the way you want it."

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I write! On top of everything else, when I get a spare moment I sit down and I write. I have a blog on my Web site, I'm in the process now of trying to write my first novel. I have three very different ideas about how to write it, so I am writing three different books at the same time.

HIV Diagnosis

How did you find out you were HIV positive?

My partner tested positive, and we were in a monogamous relationship so I kind of just knew. We were two years into our relationship so we had stopped using protection: If he was positive, I was positive. But that didn't make me go get tested. My friends actually made me go get tested, because I knew, but I didn't want to know.

What were your feelings when you were first diagnosed?

I ignored it, to be completely honest, because my partner found out when he got pneumonia. When he came out of the hospital, he still wasn't 100 percent. So I just devoted all of my energy to taking care of him. I just forgot about me, which is what I wanted to do anyway.

How did your feelings change over time?

They changed during the third year after my partner tested positive -- he got pneumonia for the third time and we didn't think he was going to make it. For me, the only thing that made being positive okay was him. Because my idea was, "If you get sick, I'll take care of you. If I get sick, you'll take care of me." But when it looked like he wasn't going to make it, I was going to be alone. So it was either take care of myself, or I would die by myself.

How long do you think it takes to process a diagnosis?


It's different for everybody. I went into denial for three years. Then it took me another year to say it to anybody else. So it was four years after I actually tested positive before I even did anything about it. I honestly don't believe that it should take that long, not if you have the structure to support you.

But didn't you have that support?

I had it, but I wasn't willing to engage it because I was the support structure for all my friends. I was the one that everybody came to with all their problems. So when I had a problem, I didn't think they were strong enough to deal with my problems and their problems.

But when I finally told them, it was the best thing that I could have ever done. I live in Baltimore now and if I was to pick up the phone and say, "I need somebody," in two hours there would be a knock on the door saying, "Let me in. I'm here ... what's wrong?"

What advice would you offer someone who has just tested positive?

Basically, the advice I would give to someone who just tests positive is that you need to reevaluate your life, because more than anything it makes you focus on what you haven't done, what you want to do, and the importance of time -- you no longer have the luxury of it.

So it really just makes you focus. You have to make the decision whether you want to live or die -- because if you don't do anything about it, you're going to die. So if it's "I wanna live," then take the steps in order to keep yourself healthy, and not just live, but live the life that you wanna live.

When you look back, would you have done anything differently before either of you tested positive, in terms of the use of condoms in your relationship?

Yes, I would have used condoms. But for me, I was young and na?ve, and the only thing that mattered to me was that there was this other person who loved me like I loved him, so I thought that love would conquer all. So I was blinded by that notion -- and let down my guard. I did not realize that I could still love him and not get infected.

What is the first thing someone who has just found out they have HIV should do?

Call your best friend and pour your heart out and tell him, "I need a hug ... come get me."

How has having HIV changed you?

It's completely changed my life, actually. Because I was infected so young, it just made me look at everything differently. Again, it made me realize the importance of time and the things that I wanted to do with my life. I always looked at it like, "OK, I have a limited time in which to do this, so I have no time to waste." Through the last eight years, I have realized that I can live as long as I want to but I am still very cognizant of the constraints that I feel because of time ... because I am HIV positive.

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More From This Resource Center

Magic Johnson Wants You to Know: He Isn't Cured of HIV

Living With HIV? African Americans Share Their Advice

This article was provided by TheBody.

See Also
More Personal Stories of Gay Men With HIV

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Trent (brooklyn,ny) Sun., Mar. 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm UTC
Its been a year ,i miss you soo much...
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Comment by: Mon., Jan. 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm UTC
R.I.P SHelton
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Comment by: K. Robinson (Newark, Nj) Sat., Oct. 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm UTC
R.I.P. Shelton, I went to high school with Shelton and he was such a genuinely sweet and kindhearted person. I lost my mother from this disease at the age of 15 and have a father that has been battling this disease for more then 13 years. I truly found inspiration from Shelton, and remember take your meds, wear protection and love yourself.
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Comment by: Quadia (San Francisco, CA) Mon., Aug. 10, 2009 at 2:02 am UTC
Shelton--Rest In Peace. It's difficult to read this knowing that in the year 2009 people are still dying from aids more than twenty-five years after... I lost two brothers to AIDS. One was 33, the other was 39. That was then--there were no 'real drugs'. Note: I always call people evil. "You are just evil," or "He's evil." get it. It's like "Bitch" -- to me. I had no idea "evil" meant homosexual. I just thought it meant someone who is dangerous and just not nice--someone I want to avoid--or just a light dis...
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Comment by: ezelagbo (Nigeria) Thu., Jun. 18, 2009 at 12:58 pm UTC
Dear Nates, you can read Shelton's blog and get more information about his last days on earth you will have a clue to how he died.
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Comment by: LaRon Martin (Staten Island,New York) Tue., Jun. 2, 2009 at 12:10 am UTC
Shelton; even though it has been 3 months since your passing, I still miss you my friend. Shelton had brought so much to my life. He saw things about me that I didn't want to see. He gave me tough love about myself. I've been reading so many responses since Shelton death and I CAN BELIEVE THAT SHELTON WAS LOVED BY SO MANY PEOPLE BECAUSE HE WAS TRULY AN ANGEL FROM GOD.I can say that I NEVER met a person like Shelton before. He was truly in a class by himself. I also read other remarks about some of the choices he made in his life. No one is perfect, but you try to learn from your mistakes and hope you can teach others to try not to make those same mistakes you did. If everyone was perfect,this would be a dull world. I do commend Shelton for sharing his life, wisdom, and knowledge with people he didn't even know. Shelton in the short time that we had known one another, I am truly honored to have had you in my life. LUV YA my brother and until we meet again..... To everyone out there who is reading this, PLEASE WHAT EVER YOU DO; DON'T FORGET TO TELL YOUR LOVE ONES THAT YOU LOVE THEM BECAUSE TOMMORROW IS NOT PROMISE.
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Comment by: Mon., Jun. 1, 2009 at 11:38 pm UTC
Shelton, even though it has been almost 3 months since your passing, I miss you very much. I am so happy that a person like Shelton had entered my life. He had brought so much wisdom and honesty into my circle.
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Comment by: corey (MD) Thu., May. 21, 2009 at 9:16 am UTC
Nate: I believe shelton was not taking his hiv medications. It's a hard lesson. But if your CD4 count is low and your viral load high and you are not on hiv medications, really bad things can happen. You really have to take those medications!
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Comment by: Nate (Oakland, CA) Mon., May. 18, 2009 at 4:28 pm UTC
I recently found out I was HIV+ and found comfort and hope in reading Shelton's words. As I was reading I felt I was getting to know him. I found hope and inspiration from him. I was hoping to contact to him. Needless to say, I was shocked and deeply saddened to read at the very end of his bio that he had passed away. I don't quite understand, I thought (and had hoped) that drugs today keep people alive for a long long time. That we could live long lives. I assume Shelton passed from an HIV-related illness. Does anyone know for sure what he died of? It's strange, I have never met Shelton, but I miss him. And I know the world has lost one of the good ones. Be good and be well to you all!
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Comment by: tony (nj) Tue., Apr. 21, 2009 at 5:23 pm UTC
Had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful brother just once over dinner. This man was a difference maker. He is no longer with us, he was called Home. He will surely be missed. But his work will go on. We all need to know our status, whether straight or gay. EVERYONE!!! Please check out his works/blogs/etc and everything you might find and pass it on. We (people of color) have been in the dark way too long. It's time to embrace our brother/sisters across the board.
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Comment by: Anonymous in Pretoria SA (south africa) Wed., Apr. 15, 2009 at 10:30 am UTC
His story made me laugh a bit because I saw a bit of me in him, just disappointed that he is gay. He is so cute. Yes I am a woman and positive that is why I kept my identification cause in SA people are still not educated with this fact and there is a lot of stigma. Shelton if you not mind can i have your email address or numbers. you said something about drawing strenth from others and maybe i can draw that from you. And yes i will give you my name just not sure if i am ready for the whole word to know.
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Comment by: rui (New york) Thu., Mar. 19, 2009 at 12:04 am UTC
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Comment by: Billie (Devon - England) Sat., Mar. 14, 2009 at 4:25 pm UTC
As a hetrosexual married white lady married to a guy from Barbados and who contracted hiv 2 years ago, I would just like to say, that reading Shelton's story as inspired me to keep on at my husband who is still in denial. But mostly I would like to add this comment -- Shelton I would have loved to have known you as a friend, your hiv status would have meant nothing to me, but by reading your answers in this article about you, you were a human with so much heart, compassion and love. I know with all my heart that tonight your with our Lord and maker safely tucked up in his arms. God bless and keep you safe now forever. Never knew you, wish I had, but like your Grandmother I'd have stuck fast to your side.
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Comment by: Kia Fri., Mar. 13, 2009 at 10:02 am UTC
Rest in peace Shelton!
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Comment by: Justin B Smith (Laurel, Maryland) Mon., Mar. 9, 2009 at 12:14 pm UTC
Shelton Jackson and I met a couple times though I did not know him very well I am truly saddened about this tremendous loss that the world has suffered. I wish I could've known him better. I know he is in a better place now. I feel that I have to pick up where he left off. WE NEED TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT. Education, Awareness and Prevention. We as a people need to fight HIV -- it's killing our people. Our people meaning black, white, hispanic, asian etc.

For Shelton Jackson, my friends infected and affected by this disease, who are living and dead, I fight. We will miss truly miss you spirit, soul and smile. We love you Shelton and thank you for all those you have and will touch

Justin B Smith
Justin's HIV Journal
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Comment by: Trent (Brooklyn,ny) Sun., Mar. 8, 2009 at 6:29 pm UTC
I met Shelton 5 years ago. Ever since then we were friends. I never met a person that was as caring and warm hearted as he was. His smile brightened the room as soon as he walked in. Even when work was taking a toll on me being a NYC police officer, he knew how to make me smile. My heart feels heavy and saddened ever since i learned of his passing. I miss him already, our talks on the phone or our trips to the movies but i know he's in God's arms. Shelton I love you and you'll always be with me always may god keep you.
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Comment by: kareem clemons (nyc) Fri., Mar. 6, 2009 at 11:12 pm UTC
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Comment by: Kritzmoritz (lagos) Thu., Mar. 5, 2009 at 7:09 am UTC
I am ultra sad. I did not realize that AIDS is still a major menace...that it still strikes people at 28 years. My heart aches, cos it tells me what's ahead for me
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Comment by: Karima Jackson (Newark, NJ) Wed., Mar. 4, 2009 at 1:38 pm UTC
R.I.P Shelton "Snoop" Jackson. Your family loves you and honors your memory. You will forever live in our hearts. You are an inspiration and a constant reminder that life is precious enough to fight for and live to its limits. You have touched so many lives and given so many people a voice who probably otherwise could have never imagined being heard. We now all shout at the top of our lungs... "We Love You...And Miss You"
-Your Lil Cuz, Karima!!!
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Comment by: Keva Tue., Mar. 3, 2009 at 10:33 am UTC
Just wanted to say that Shelton passed away yesterday. March 2, 2009. He fought a good fight. He now has his wings to go anywhere he want to go. Rest in peace my dear
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Comment by: Dave (Washington, DC) Sat., Jan. 31, 2009 at 1:21 pm UTC

I have not seen you in over 4 years. The last time I saw you was when you were celebrating your birthday in a DC nightclub in NE DC. I am very glad you are still focused on your personal and professional ambitions. Have you investigated or the Foundation Center as viable funding sources? Since you live in Baltimore, MD consider buying a 4 unit apartment building. Live in one unit and rent out the remainng three.

Congratulations on the new relationhip. Stay strong. Stay Blessed
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Comment by: Miracle (NJ) Fri., Jan. 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm UTC
Can you please recommend the doctor that you used in NJ?
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Comment by: Luca (UAE) Wed., Nov. 19, 2008 at 9:52 am UTC
I just tested positive while applying to a job. Three month ago I have been to hospital because of what seemed to be food poisoning. I asked to be HIV tested and it was negative. Two days ago I tested positive. I resigned from my job because in this country you cannot have a residency permit if you are HIV+.

I will need to link with HIV+ people to know how to deal with all that. I already informed my sister who will support me. But I also live in a country where being HIV+ cannot be revealed. I will be going home asap and will see a specialist. I am 34 years old and I am confused and freaking out. I feel like I'm jailed in my own body. When I look around to people in the street I know and understand what a luxury it is to be in good health. I also say I will try to keep what I have at this very moment. I will do my best, but I need your support guys.

I admire your courage and strength. I will need to meet HIV + people like me and see that they are living.
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Comment by: clueless (nashville) Fri., Nov. 14, 2008 at 10:04 am UTC
Hey! I am really am proud of you and how strong you are. Remember life is always great as long as we have Jesus in it. No matter what you are going through, Jesus is on your side,believe that. I'm a woman with a lot of belief. I'm not positive for a desease, but I am positive that you are a blessing from God. No matter what you have done, we are all God's children and' yes' Jesus loves you. Continue to take care of yourself. love, clueless.
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Comment by: annette Tue., Aug. 19, 2008 at 5:54 pm UTC
im still dealing with myself of having hiv
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Comment by: Robyn Franklin Fri., Aug. 1, 2008 at 10:12 am UTC
Hello Shelton. You probaly don't remember me but I use to be the supervisor for POWER in Newark at UMDNJ. Jason, Whaeedah and I are still stay in touch. Jason told me you were doing well a couple of years ago. I loged onto thebody and saw you! I was like I know him!! I am so proud of you with your writing career and all. Represent for Newark! You go boy. I moved down to Maryland in 2003. I live in the Laurel Bowie area. I would love to hear from you. Please write back or call. I still have my NJ number.

Thanks for your inspiring piece as well. Sharing your story helps many people to stay strong and life is worth living. Hope to hear from you.
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Comment by: Fattflietly Tue., Jul. 1, 2008 at 4:30 pm UTC
this bonus ;)
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Comment by: Latisha Harris Sat., Jun. 21, 2008 at 10:29 am UTC
This story is so inspirational. I work with HIV positive transgender population and I look for ways to encourage them. I hope you don't mind but you will be the talk of group Monday. In Louisiana you have to be creative in your approach when it comes to HIV treatment. State government know we have a problem but they won't listen until the problem reaches their own back door. Typical of the south. Thanks again for the story. I know I won't be the first and surely not the last you are making a difference. Thanks again.

Latisha Harris
Baton Rouge, La.
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