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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
Kai Chandler Lois Crenshaw Gary Paul Wright Fortunata Kasege Keith Green Lois Bates Greg Braxton Vanessa Austin Bernard Jackson

Lois Crenshaw

March 24, 2009

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Lois Crenshaw 

About Lois Crenshaw

Can you tell our readers and listeners about your personal history with HIV? How did you find out you were HIV positive?

I had gotten raped, and I had developed something like the flu. One of my grandbabies had passed away, and I came to Minnesota to support my son with this death in the family. I went to the doctor to get something for this flu, and later on they let me know that I had the virus.

Did you know that they were going to test you for HIV?

I had heard a lot about HIV. I told the doctor that I wanted a flu checkup, and to also check for that HIV thing, and that's what happened.

Where were you living at the time?

I was living in Nassau, Bahamas.

How long had you been living there?

Two years.

What were you doing there?

That's my home.

Were you working?

Yes, I had a restaurant.

Are you from there?

I was born there. My mom brought me back to the States, to Chicago, when I was three weeks old.

Have you lived in Chicago most of your life?

Yes -- I was in law enforcement there.

You were working for the Chicago police force?

Yes, I worked there for over 17 years.

Did you enjoy this work?

Not really. [laughs] But I had children.

How many children did you have?

I had six boys and two girls. I was married, three times.

You worked full time and you had eight children?


Wow, that's a busy household.

Yes, it was! [laughs]

Where did you live in Chicago?

I lived on the east side, west side and north side.

More or less all around town [laughs].

Yes [laughs]. I worked on the police force for over 17 years. I finally quit when I couldn't take it any longer. I came up here to visit one of my daughters.

Where did you go, to Minneapolis?

Yes. I just stayed. We moved up here.

What did you like about Minneapolis, compared to Chicago?


The gangs hadn't moved in, the drugs hadn't moved in, but then I could see the signs of it. I was just more relaxed here than I was in Chicago.

Is it really much safer, do you think?

Well, in '86.

Now it's not anymore?


You moved from Chicago to Minneapolis. Did you bring some of your kids with you?

Yes, I did. After a while, all had migrated here except two.

I had a son -- Leivery Van Williams -- who passed away at 33 years old, in 1995. He also had AIDS.

I'm so sorry about your loss. Can we talk about your son later on? Now I'd like to focus on you. You mentioned that you had been diagnosed HIV positive in 1994. Can you tell us how you think you got infected?

I know how I [pauses]. Yes -- I was raped.

Where were you raped?

In Nassau, one night after I got off of work.

Where did the rape occur?

At my house.

Were you alone in the house?

I was alone.

What happened?

I would rather not say exactly. Somebody that was important came to the house, and I felt safe. I let him in. At that time I found out what he had come for. He didn't hurt me really. I was going to try and [laughs] get down with him, but I was scared because he had a weapon. He didn't hurt me; he just killed me. But I refused to lie down. I didn't know about the virus at the time.

Would anything have been different had you known that HIV was a risk?

No -- there was nothing I could do about it.

Because he had a weapon?


You had known this man and felt safe with him previously?

No, I felt safe with him because of his position.

I see, because he was an important member of ...

Yes. He was [pauses]; I would like to not say.

That's OK. He was an important man in the Bahamas. You thought he was a man of stature, that he would act like a gentleman.


He didn't.

I thought that someone had broken into my restaurant.

I see.

That's why I let him in.

You thought he was there on official business.

Yes, yes. I didn't know him. I saw him before.

Had he been nice before?

Yes. We just came in contact at the restaurant, that's all.

After the rape, did you go to the hospital?

No. Like I said, he didn't hurt me.

Within a week or two, I started getting something like the flu. I was taking what I could to work with the flu, but it wasn't doing any good. Meanwhile I found out one of my grandchildren had passed away with SIDS [sudden infant death syndrome]. I came to Minneapolis to be with my son and his wife. I came here and went to a doctor. I was on social security. The money followed me to the Bahamas, but the medical care didn't follow me.

You couldn't get medical care in the Bahamas.

No. That's why when I came here, I went to a doctor at a clinic and had a complete checkup. That's when I told them make sure they checked for that thing, the HIV. Everything came back OK -- it was the flu. They said the last test hadn't come in.

It took about a month after that before I found out what happened -- that I had the virus.

Were you nervous during that time while you were waiting for the results?

No, that was the last thing on my mind. I knew I was not a promiscuous woman. This thing had happened to me so I knew when and how I got infected. When I checked things out, I found out this man had been doing this to quite a few people.

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