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Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter

By Kellee Terrell

August 25, 2010

Social media isn't just for the kids to give people a blow-by-blow of their day -- it's also being used to raise awareness around a range of important issues. The Chicago Tribune reported on the impact that Rae Lewis-Thornton, a popular blogger and long-term HIV survivor, has had using Twitter to spread the word about HIV, especially among African Americans.


Lewis-Thornton, 48, admits that she was reluctant to start using Twitter -- she didn't think keeping the message under 140 characters would translate to people. But 2,000 plus followers and 20,000 tweets later, her tune has changed. "I call this hard-core activism," she said. "I'm reminding you on a daily basis that AIDS is real. If you have AIDS you can live with it; I'm an example of that. I want you to see the life -- the good, the bad and the ugly."

Realistically, her little cyber notes can reach a demographic that traditional HIV prevention may be missing. Johnathon Briggs from AIDS Foundation of Chicago told the Tribune, "She's reaching that generation that is not going to sit and read a brochure. She is injecting these messages where people are living. Her Tweets could save somebody's life."

Lewis-Thornton, who was diagnosed in 1986, has been a staple in the black community. She has appeared on the cover of Essence magazine and in numerous publications such as Jet; Ebony; Emerge; O, The Oprah Magazine; Glamour; POZ; Lifelines and The Washington Post. In 1995, Lewis-Thornton won an Emmy for anchoring her own news segments on Chicago's CBS affiliate about her experiences living with HIV. You can watch one of those segments in the YouTube video below.

Kellee Terrell is's former news editor.

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