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Are We the Balm in Gilead?

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

March 16, 2011

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

Are We the Balm in Gilead?

So yesterday I started IV medication yet again. And yes, it's everything it promises to be. A really aggressive treatment that kicks my ass. Last week I spilled the beans and revealed that I have drug resistant herpes and that is the reason I have had to have this aggressive IV treatment over and over again.

Yes, in disclosing there was a weight lifted off my shoulders. But even now that the cat is out of the bag, there is a part of me that wonders if people have less compassion and sympathy for me while I'm going through this treatment because this infection happens to be sexually transmitted. It makes me wonder if people Tweet one thing but underneath it all, they are shaking their heads at me and the choices I have made. That's the little girl, always seeking approval. But the woman knows that people are gonna talk, judge, cast stones, and I can't do a damn thing about it. The fact of the matter, I did make choices years ago that have left me fighting for my life, pride, and dignity for the rest of my life. I can never change that fact!

But I also wonder, if in all the judgements, which actually help to cause the shame and stigma, can we instead create an environment where people can heal and grow in grace and peace? It's one thing for me to come to terms with myself, accept my culpability and deal with the fact that I could have made a different choice that would have rendered me a different outcome.  Coming to terms with oneself is hard enough, but when people continue to throw stones we only get new wounds, and healing becomes hard, if not an impossible task. Christians often ask, "Is there a balm in Gilead?" But I'm gonna ask, "Aren't we Gilead? The community of God? And aren't we all called to love? Can we help heal Gilead?"

So as I heal from this herpes infection that has taken an incredible toll on my body and spirit, I ask for your prayers and understanding. But what I really ask is that you read my journey and ask yourself hard questions about your own life and life choices. That you see in my journey how choices can impact your life and health for the rest of your life. And that you help to create an environment of healing and love. Are we the balm in Gilead?

Post Script: I will have a six-hour IV treatment, once a week for 4 weeks. The first was yesterday. The antiviral medication that I am taking is extremely aggressive and toxic. The side-effects are extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness and renal failure. So I am also taking medication to protect my kidneys while I am taking the IV treatment which also has a list of side-effects of it's own. I'm moving a lot slower and at least the day of and the day after, I'm shut down. Why I'm writing a blog right now is beyond me. #Overachiever. This infection happens to be extremely aggressive and my pain level is about a 9-10 all day, every day. But you know me ... I'm yet holding on!

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See Also
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS

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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on about Rae's social media activities.

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