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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?

Yes.

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?

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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?

No.

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?

Yes.

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.

Yes.

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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This article was provided by TheBody.com.


Reader Comments:

Comment by: Michael K. (Thika, Kenya) Fri., Apr. 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm EDT
Lois as an older person has gone through what older persons especially women are going through in Sub Sahara Africa mostly with scanty psychosocial suupport. All of us advocate for the rights of all. Tommorrow is the World Health Day. Help Lois and others to cope and also help to prevent such episodes.
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Comment by: Meta S. (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) Thu., Feb. 9, 2012 at 11:22 am EST
The courage that you show is all inspiring for those of us that feel we lack strength. thank you for your bravery!!!
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Comment by: Linda (New Jersey) Mon., Apr. 20, 2009 at 7:26 pm EDT
Lois, you're alot stronger than you think you are. You help people just by being real. I wish my late fiance could have had some of your strength, maybe he'd still be here. When he was diagnosed with AIDS he just couldn't deal with it, went into depression, would start taking his medicine and then stop. He wouldn't find a therapist or doctor to talk to, felt that as a black man he should be strong enough to do it on his own. I wish he would have known someone like you. Keep on telling people to do what ever is necessary to keep on living.
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Comment by: Gilbert Chewe (South Africa) Tue., Apr. 14, 2009 at 5:51 am EDT
Lois Crenshaw, mum I must say you are blessed no matter what you have gone through. If you do not mind you can communicate with me. Gilbert Chewe I a Zambian working in South Africa. my email: gilbert_chewe@yahoo.com
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Comment by: F.M. Howldar (Holland) Tue., Apr. 14, 2009 at 3:17 am EDT
thanks for your information, i found you a strong woman, i also have hiv 4 years ago, it start also with flu, i have medication, thank GOD....
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Comment by: Janet Ndhlovu (Chattanooga Tn) Wed., Apr. 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm EDT
I thank you for sharing this information. I have someone very close to me that had HIV
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Comment by: DIVA (NY) Wed., Apr. 8, 2009 at 10:33 am EDT
I applaud your courage and wisdom,as a black woman of Bahamian descent my disclosure was not met with so much understanding. I was diagnosed at 44 yrs old in 2000. Despite not being a saint, I was not exactly promiscuous and never used drugs. Today I am estranged from family, which does not bother me at all as perusing the years I realize that they are not nice people. I have a sense of exhileration and freedom, I never had before. True my life is far from perfect but I have 5 adult children ages 35-19 yrs, 1 grand, and a host of others God brought in my life or returned to my life. My only wish is that the black churches would stop their blindness and hypocrisy when it comes to this disease and practice what they preach..
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Comment by: Mathew (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) Wed., Apr. 8, 2009 at 3:25 am EDT
Lovely and courageous. It shows how real Lois was by the time she discovered that she has a virus. I am working with older people (HelpAge International) here in Tanzania as the Programme Manager for HIV/AIDS Department and this will be a useful learning article from a true case for educating her fellow older people here in Tanzania. God bless you Lois
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Comment by: Mahogany (New Jersey) Mon., Apr. 6, 2009 at 7:56 pm EDT
Lois, I thank you so much for encouraging me even more to live. I've been diagnosed in Nov of 2007. It didn't take me long to get out of the depression mode. I too was told by my pastor that I didn't have enough faith to stop taking my meds. My reply to her was that I have enough faith to take them. I believe that if Gods going to heal me then he'll do it wether I take medication or not. I feel that everything happens for a reason. The 1st two regimens I started out with was combivir & sustiva. I switched combivir which contains AZT becuz of side effects that O didn't like..now I'm happy to say that ATRIPLA is what I'm taking now. It's really a great regimen to take once a day. I don't mean to write a book. Sometimes I can get carrried away. I just wanted to commend you on your achievements as a survivor. God bless you continously!!!!
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Comment by: Matt (Tanzania) Mon., Apr. 6, 2009 at 6:21 pm EDT
Inspirational. It is a whole story of positve living. It wil be interesting to list what did she have that other people may or do not have.
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