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When actor Charlie Sheen said, "I'm not living in that prison anymore" I felt that deep in my soul.  It resonated loud and clear. I kept my own HIV infection a secret for seven years. For Real! My first seven years I only told 5 people that I had HIV, other than the men I dated. And even then I was afraid that someone would take my information and sabotage my life working at the national level as a young savvy political organizer.  I can image that being blackmailed is crazy madness. So, yes I'm glad that Charlie Sheen made this decision to step outside of that madness and disclose his HIV status. I remember when I disclosed my HIV status, it felt like tons of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders...

 Now, I'm not sure what my readers and supporters want me to say about all of this, but as usual, I'm going to speak the truth as I see it and know it to be.

1) It is a SHAME that in 2015, thirty four years, yes I said 34 years after the first documented HIV cases by the Center for Disease Control that a person still lives in fear of disclosing their HIV status. When are we going to stop shaming people who are living with HIV? Huh? WHEN? Even now, everyone has a freaking opinion about what Charlie Sheen should have done with his life. HIS LIFE! I'm sadden, not just for Charlie, but for all the people who reach out to me daily via Social Media that are living with HIV and are afraid to disclose their HIV status for fear of judgement. I get it, just by watching the reaction to Charlie today.

This shamming has created a vicious cycle, especially when it comes to testing for HIV. Who even wants to know their status in this climate of judging and lack of compassion.  Testing is critical, because 38% of those newly infected with HIV are infected by someone who does not know that they have HIV. So people don't great tested because of fear of judgement and they infect others unknowingly. Learning your HIV status late also means that treatment comes late. This is sad because studies, show the earlier you know the longer you live.

Furthermore, the fact the Matt Lauer even asked Charlie how he contracted HIV is some 34 year old "Good AIDS" "Bad AIDS" crap. First off, it ain't none of your freaking business how! Does knowing how change how you feel about him?  If it does, shame on you. All it takes is one person, one time.

2. Charlie admits that he has had unprotected sex, but that his partner(s) knew that he was HIV positive and was also under his doctor's care. People seemed to be outraged by this fact, like they fucking Charlie. *Blank Stare*  The problem I see is not Charlie, but the mass majority have not caught up with the medical advancements around HIV.

a) It is true that an HIV infected person with an Undetectable Viral load CANNOT infect another person with HIV. It does not matter, how many times they have unprotected sex, you cannot transmit HIV when your Viral Load is Undetectable.

b) Charlie said that his partner was also under his doctor's medical care. So I am assuming that just maybe the person (s) he was having unprotected sex with was also taking PrEp. Which is a once a day pill that will PREVENT a person from becoming HIV infected. That's a double positive people. You cannot infect a person if your viral load is undetectable and your partner can also take PrEp. These are medical FACTS! There is no BUT!

3) Charlie admitted having sex with prostitutes and in those cases he used a condom and also disclosed his HIV status. BRAVO! Now, I know people with HIV who use a condom  100%,  but do not disclose their HIV status. They feel, if their viral load is undetectable, why should they  have to disclose.  There are now doctors who share this same opinion. Personally, I think disclosure is the best policy, especially if the relationship grows. But at the end of the day everyone has to decide how they choose to live their life with HIV. I dare not judge another. So I say BRAVO that Charlie was upfront and honest.

Now, what's really jacked up in this case, is that someone took the information given to them for there protection and used it against him. Even sadder, is the climate  around HIV that creates an opening for someone to be blackmailed. If people didn't judge those living with HIV so harshly, those living with HIV wouldn't be afraid to disclose, nor would there be any room to blackmail a person. Yep, I came full circle back to STIGMA!

4) I cannot tell you where Charlie is in disease progression.  If I had known his T-Cell Count and his Viral Load when he was first diagnosed, I could give you a good guess on how long he has actually been infected. Once you start treatment, there is no way for a lay person to figure it out. That is information he and his doctor knows. I do wonder about the night sweats, which sounds like an AIDS Related medical issue, rather than an HIV. There are no HIV symptoms.

These are the facts as told by Charlie,

He has been infected at least 4 years

He is in treatment

His viral Load is Undetectable

He is on an 4 HIV medicine Cocktail ( BTW-So Am I)

5) Charlie is an addict. Addiction is not good for people living with HIV. First off, addiction has it's own medical issues, depending on your drug of choice. Secondly, alcohol and drugs can have an adverse effect on HIV medication. Even some over the counter  and alternative medications can effect the viability of HIV medication. So lets hope he is getting the help that is needed to control addiction.

6) Charlie talked about Manic behavior. It has been long speculated that he might be BiPolar. IF this is the case he will have an up hill battle. Mental illness can be a barrier to complying with medical treatment of any kind. Also, depression is very common among people living with HIV. I have also had an up hill battle with depression that requires me to both be medicated and see regular talk therapy.

Lastly, should he have disclosed, earlier. I think a person should disclose when they are ready. He spoke another truth "HIV are three words that are hard to absorb." I get that. It took me 7 years and I still only disclosed because I thought that I was dying. Well with a T-Cell count of 8 I was, but then I had a great doctor and I did what was asked of me, no matter how difficult it was. I have also been drug and alcohol fee.

I have some compassion for Charlie Sheen. Is he my hero, no. Hydeia Broadbent is my HIV hero, born with HIV, she became an AIDS Activist at age  6 and has not stopped well into her thirties. Sheryl Lee Ralph is my HIV activist hero, an actress who is NOT infected but made a decision to do speak out for the rejected and locked out.  YOU are my hero, those of you who follow me on my social media sites, read my blog, buy my bracelets because your support keeps me going, and growing, 32 years living with HIV.

I do however, think in an era where HIV is no longer a sexy topic, Charlie Sheen can help to open space for new dialogue. Charlie Sheen can use his money and his celebrity status to help. I mean really help. Does he have to become an AIDS Activist per say, no, but he can truly help. Shoot, I would love to partner with Charlie to speak at colleges across this country.

For sure there is still work to be done. Every 10 minutes a person becomes infected with HIV in the United States. Yes there is work to be done.

My hope is that Charlie Sheen will continue to get the needed help to live and thrive living with HIV.

I'm always pleading the case for women to take control of their bodies and health. It's a fact that no one will take care of you the way that you take care of yourself. But over the years, women seem to be stuck, especially when it comes to our bodies.

I think this culture of misogyny has impacted how we view and even how we treat our bodies. Equally important, it has created degrees of shame around our bodies when we should be empowered.

And I understand why, around the world our bodies have been used as a weapon against us. Our clitoris have been cut, we have been raped as political pawns, murdered for having premarital sex, married off  to young, and in the United States, our bodies have continuously been front and center as a pawn by our elected officials. No one should have the right to regulate what I do with my body.

Let me give you  an example of the kind of shame women have around "female issues" I was at an event with a group of women talking about a new product on the market called Finess, I'll get more into that in a minute, and this brilliant business woman admitted that for years she couldn't bring herself to purchase her own tampons. How does a woman grow to be bold and awesome in one area of her life, but in one of the most important areas, live in fear of what people might think of her? I'm no different, you all know I kept my HIV status a secret for seven years because I was afraid of what people would think of me. Back when I was diagnosed, only "whores, gays and drug addicts got HIV" *Blank stare* Even Cosmopolitan magazine told women that they could have unprotected sex with an HIV positive man if their vagina was "healthy" and if they had "normal" sex, they could not get HIV. *blank stare*

I think most women have been at that place of fear and shame around their bodies one time or the other. How could we not be, living in a culture where we have been taught to be ashamed of our bodies and our sexuality. So when my girlfriend and fellow blogger Dwana asked me if I wanted to review this new product for and about women I said absolutely.

Now in full disclosure, when I got Finess in the mail, I was like they want me to put this thing where? But I had promised Dwana and Ann-Marie from the Boombox Network that I would participate, and my world is always my honor. But in real talk, I also needed the money that I was being paid to sample this product. So I pulled out my big girl panties, and tried Finess.

Let me give you the 411 on Finess. It's an revolutionary product, first of its kind, over the counter approved by the FDA to help women stop bladder leaks. Yep, a woman places Finess over her urethra and it actually stops her bladder from leaking. The technology is different from others, in that it's an non-intrusive product, which means, nothing is inserted onside of your body.  And unlike pads that only catch your urine, Finess actually stops you from leaking altogether.  Huh? Yes I said, you put it over your pee hole and it will prevent your bladder from leaking urine.

Bladder Leaks i.e. Urinary Incontinence. huh? Well, bladder leaks are common among women who have given birth and it is especially common among women making their way to menopause like me. But their are some women, simply experience spontaneous bladder leaks, you laugh to hard, you sneeze,  you cough, working out you feel a drop, you gotta go to the bathroom real bad and there's no place to go and a little pee leaks out. At one time or another we have all been there, and if not, like grandmama use to say, "you just keep on living honey." I know since I've been going through this menopause thing, I have been experiencing more and more leaks. But I hadn't yet given any thought about how to control it, other than a pad, that is until now.

After two days of sitting on the counter, I got my nerve up and tried Finess. At the end of the day, this product is for and about making the lives of women better and for that you can always count me on board.

Finess is a sponge like form about 1 1/2 inch long and at the top widest part about the same. It's super soft with a little sticky adhesive on the back and you simply place it over your urethra, i.e your pee hole. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't give a lot of thought to where my pee hole is exactly, I just know it's somewhere near my vagina. So for me, I had to lay on the bed with a mirror and find it. LOL but for real. 

Now you all know I'm a little slow sometimes, so it was awkward for me holding the mirror and placing Finess over my uthrea all at the same time, but after two tries I was successful. When we had the fireside chat with a group of women who had also sampled Finess, other women in the group had no problem at all, they just sat on the toilet or squatted and Bam! I was enviously for real, because every time I used Finess I had to do it with a mirror.

The adhesive was a little sticky at first, but for sure it is safe. After I placed the Finess sponge I was acutely aware of it for at least the first 30 minutes to an hour. But after that, I forgot I even had it on until I actually had to use the bathroom and had to take it off.  Other women in the group said that they even forgot they had it on unto to they peeed and it fell off. All the women had different experiences with Finess. I had no irritation from the adhesive while wearing Finess or after I took it off. It was very comfortable and I had absolutely no bladder leaks.

 Over all, I would recommend Finess to any woman who experiences bladder leaks. It's a intrusive way from women to control urinary incontinence. I'm always elated to see new products that give women the power that need over their bodies, so my hat is off to the team over at Finess. You can learn more on thier website.

Now, Finess is not sold in stores, you have to purchase it either from Finess Website or on Amazon for a trail it will cost $4.99. Here's a coupon code for 50% off for a 36 pack at Amazon, V23DVC72. Click here to shop.

YESSSSSSS! I'm giving away a trail pack of six and shoot I'll even throw in a bracelet from RLT Collection. AlI you have to do it is make a comment on this blog post about what you think about Finess. Follow Finess on Twitter or Like them on Facebook and on October 19th, I will announce a winner on this blog. And y'all know you have to be following me *blank stare*  

Everybody got some "thing" going on in their life most of the time, if not all of the freaking time.

Some "things" cannot be helped, like an illness you didn't see coming. Like last year when my Sophie was diagnosed with cancer on Wednesday and on the following Monday I had to put her down.

 Like a job that ended unexpectedly, death in the family, someone hitting your car, without stopping and you are left with the task of getting a new one.

Like a person betrays your trust and your life is changed without your permission. Like recently I met a guy who had been in a monogamous relationship for five years, so he thought. After a few years of condom use, he let his guard down and now he is living with HIV. Just that quick, someone else made a decision to do something with their life and it changed both lives.

While some "things" are out of our control, there are "things" in our life we help create. Like that boyfriend that continues to disrespect you whether it be small or big, (by the way a lot of small adds up to big)  yet you just keep hanging on. Like the friend who treat's you like shit, but you keep sitting at the table where the shit is being served.

In both of those cases the fist time was on them, but everything after is about how you decide to deal with it. When shit is being served and you hang around, you tell that person, just by your presence that its O.K. It does not matter what comes out of your mouth. Action always speaks louder than words and your participation creates that "thing in your life, i.e. the stress and chaos.

Now, there is some "things" we can avoid altogether, like when you have just enough money to pay your bills, but you purchased that new "thing" that you convinced yourself was ok, instead of paying all of your bills  and now you're stressed cause the bills are pass due. I know how this can be, a couple of months ago I broke one of my cardinals rules "don't spend money that I don't have in my hand."

It does not matter that I'm expecting money to come in, I just don't over extend myself on the front end anymore. I learned that lesson so many times and I know better. Well, my fur needed to be repaired and put in storage. The furrier wanted upfront money that I didn't have. Because he respects what I do for a living he allowed me to pay installments.

I made a commitment  to pay something that day, which I did; Pay something the following  Monday because I was expecting a check that Friday and then to have the bill paid in full by the end of August. Needless to say, that check didn't come in for over a month and then everything that could have gone wrong did, and I lost control.

First off,  it made me look like a lair and  because my word is my honor I became stressed trying to keep the commitment that I had made.  I gave him money that should have gone to other bills, just to keep as much of my commitment as possible. You talking about stresssssssseddddd OMG!  Just waiting on money to come in became stressful.  And to make matters worst, everything I thought would happen the way I thought it would happen, didn't.  Even paper work to process a check got crazy and I got crazier.  This was a two month long drama that I had caused. I should have taken my fur back home until I had the money to pay for it.

Yep, we all got some "thing" going on in our life whether it's of our own making or not. At the end of the day though, it's not about the "thing" per say, it's about  how we deal, what we learn and what we do next. You all know that Sophie's death sent me into a serious year long depression. I was in it before I even realized it, but once I accepted that truth, I started the hard work of climbing out of that darkness.

 No, I didn't look for the light at the end of the tunnel to rescue me, I started crawling in the darkness searching for a way out of the tunnel. Sometimes you have to do the important work in the darkness.

Even in the fur situation, I had to accept the reality. I didn't have the money, I broke my word to the furrier and all that I could do was make good as soon as I could. Those last two weeks before I paid him off, I decided to buy groceries instead of giving him all that I had. Lesson had been learned, don't break that cardinal rule again for something as frivolous as getting a fur repaired.

You can't always change that "thing" in your life, but you can determine what happens at the end of that "thing." Like the guy who ended up with HIV. He said after some destructive behavior of his own, he literately uprooted and changed his environment. Today, he is living the best he can with what he has to deal with. Ex-Boyfriend gone, no more binge drinking, he accepted HIV because it ain't going anywhere. He's taking his medication, his viral load is undetectable and he has excelled at work in the last year, more than he had in the past 5 years.

I don't think life is about the "thing" that happens to us, the "thing" is just the middle, its what happens at the end of that "thing" that helps to shape who you are.  It's about finding yourself, finding your voice and even finding your purpose.

As you go through your "thing" remember it's not about that "thing" it's about how you deal with that "thing."

No matter how difficult it might be, you have to get up from the table where shit is being served, whether it's your shit or someone else's.

My depression hit me hard, but I decided it didn't have to hit me forever. I got up from the table and started working with professionals that could help me, help myself. That's how you live your best life. You take charge of those things that you can. You don't let that "thing" control your life forever. With every "thing"you have the power to empower yourself, even in the darkest of "things."

I took an unexpected vacation from blogging. No, it was not health related. My emotional and physical health is great. It's just that I've had so much work to do in other areas of my life, that blogging took a back sit. Be clear though, while on this blogging vacation, I realized that I LOVE blogging and I've missed it like I miss bread when I'm doing my Paleo diet, LOL but For Real. 

Yet, I also realize that you sometimes have to step back so that you can move forward. Sometimes you have to let go of somethings in order to grab onto that other thing hanging in the balance. If not, you risk it all tumbling down. You can only hold so much in your hands and that's an undisputed fact. And while it all may be important to you, there's nothing in the book of life that say's you cannot put it down and then come back to pick it up.

So I've  been plugging away and even at times simply muddling through with the edits on my memoir Unprotected. (Thanks for the pre-orders)  I'm still planning to release it December 1, 2015, so I suspect the next couple of months I'll be really super single focused. I'll try to get a blog or two in weekly. 

I'm in hump time and it needs to be finished. It's like one of those things you just have to do. It's like when you are at the end of a wonderful book and you're sleepy, but you can't put it down. I have that urgency in my spirit, I gotta finish! There is closure at the end of a good book no matter the outcome. You can sit back and say, "WOW, But, How-come," and to me that's the thing that makes a book good, it leaves you thinking. And the best part, once it's all done, you can pick up yet another good book. And the new book, gives you something new to think about

That's how I feel about my memoir, I need to finish this era of my life so that I can start writing the new book. Maya Angelou did just that. Most of her books where memoirs of different era's of her life. Now I'm not saying that I'm writing a new book, who knows what the future holds. I am saying metaphorically it's time to write this book, tell that story and move to the next phase of my life.

Even though I know all of this, I've still been paralyzed. I think that this paralysis is caused by the fullness of my story and the things that need closure. Like who infected me with HIV; Who molested me as a child; My dysfunctional relationship with my white biological mother and my black step grandmother, who raised me; How I dealt with homelessness at 17; My work on the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns; How my childhood lead me to HIV; that marriage of mine; and of course how God undergirded my life, despite my life. 

The fact of the matter, finishing this memoir brings a certain kind of closure to parts of my life. I get that!!! Finishing this memoir will break the chains of my past and render it powerless over my future.

And just maybe I've been stuck on the edits because of the fear of my past being so public. And that in turn  is controlling my outcome, my future. Another fact, I've been so authentic and transparent up to this point, I know that I can't let this fear block the best of my gift, that is, being able to tell my story in a way it enriches the lives of others. I can't be chicken shit now that I done told you all the other stuff.

At the end of the day, we all have things that we are  holding onto that we should have let go a long time ago. Like that man you should have unfollowed on Facebook or that "sometimey" friend who's pictures you should have stopped liking on Instagram like yesterday. 

I don't know about you, but I don't want anything to hold me back from what's next. Whether it's physically or emotionally, I'm trying to be my best me. So I'm going  to bunker down these next two months and finish my memoir. 

I understand that you have to do what's necessary to break the chains of your past. Sometimes adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse write their abusers a letter and then burn it as a way of releasing the abuser hold over them. I know they tell people in recovery to remove themselves from people and places that facilitated their addiction. Maybe moving on means, accepting a marriage proposal from a wonderful man as a way to  let go of what went wrong in your last marriage. 

I don't know what you have to do in your own life to move forward whether you have unfollow, delete, write it out, burn it out, accept something new and wonderful even if you can't predict the outcome, but I do know, as long as you continue to hold onto the past, you are placing limitations on your future. And as sure as you are reading this blog, God has a next for you. But in the end, it's up to you to embrace it. The bible says that you cannot put new wine in old bottles. Stop blocking the next chapter of your life by holding onto what was.

God Always Has a Next!

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What I know for sure is that God always has a next! I have believed this since I was a little girl being told I was never gonna be shit. Even back then after every unjust beating, I continued to have hope for something better than my right now.

In time I learned, if I just kept holding on, there was something new for me. Now, it didn't always amount to the the things I wanted most, for the abuse to stop, but there was always something to make life worth living. Like the black theatre company, Thunder and the choir, Project Advancement Gospel Ensemble in high school. Those things were a joy to my soul and gave me a place to be other than my home.

Now, for sure it wasn't just about waiting on next, but putting myself in the right places at the right time. Sometimes we wait on next like it's going to fall in our lap, when in fact you may need to get off your ass and get to next. For example, I had to at least go to the information meetings about the theatre company and choir when I was in high school. I had to act on my own behalf.

I could have allowed the pain of my home stop me from living, but I choose to keep moving, keep searching for a better life. I believed that I was better than what my mother said I was and I went searching for better. The choir and theatre company gave me not only a respite from the chaos at my home, but a place that could nurture my self-esteem.

What I'm saying is this, it's about believing, but also about doing something in your right now. Why complain about something better, when you ain't doing nothing better?

I've carried that belief into my adulthood, no matter how bad it may seem in my right now, I  kept on pushing to see what God had next for me. At my lowest moments with AIDS, I kept this belief close to my heart. When my T-Cell Count was as low as 8, I was crisscrossing this country speaking and giving voice to the voiceless.

If I had allowed the hardship of my disease control my life, rather than continue on my life journey, I would have never met my BFF. I didn't know then that the sixteen year old who introduced me at the Jack and Jill Event in Knoxville, TN would turn out to become my ride and die years later. But what I know for sure, if I had stop living my life purpose because my t-cell count was 8 and stayed home and withered away,   I would have never crossed Luke's path. God sent me someone from an unlikely situation to have my back on this journey years later. You never know what is happening in your right now that will be a part of your next. This is way you have to keep pushing through the right now. 

It's like that with every single thing. You never know what tomorrow will bring. I understand that when you are going through, it seems like it's never going to end. For those who have been following my story you know my ordeal with herpes and IV medication. It started out once a year, then every six months and then for almost two years I had to go on IV medication every three months. I was at the end of the road emotionally. 

My doctor had exhausted every medical idea possible to control the herpes to no avail over a seven years period. But I just kept on pushing through occluded veins and failed pic lines and extreme side-effects. I never stop living, there were times I took my IV medication on the road with me when I had to speak. I didn't know what my future looked like, but as long as I woke up in the morning, I believed I was still a part of God's earthly plan.

I continued to let God use me through speaking, blogging and social media.  When I think about all the emails and private messages I have received from people who have been touched by my ministry. I understand, that living in the right now, isn't always about me, but about how God will use you. Even if it's simply to bring a smile to a stranger on the street with an hello. We all have a purpose. 

 Today, it's been an year since I've had herpes and needed to go on  IV medication. The saying is true, man plans, then God laughs. My doctor had even concluded that there was nothing to be done and now we are both looking like WOW.  I'm saying look at God.  Baby, just keep on living and watch God blow your mind. 

 I know life gets hard sometimes for us all. Your issue may or may not be HIV. But I'm a living witness if you just keep on believing and keep doing, no matter how futile it may seem, God will always have a next. It may not be the next thing you want, but it's the next thing that will bless you. Let me pause and say, don't turn your nose up you what God has next for you. Our blessings come in many shapes and forms, but what I know for sure, is that God always has a next! 

Can I be honest? I mean some real talk today?  Some of y'all been fuckin since the turn of the century (me included) and you have never been tested for HIV and that's where the difference ends. I know my status and knowing my status has saved my life. 

And some of you were tested two years ago and Lord some, five years ago and you're still depending on those results *blank stare*  but you never stopped having sex. And don't get defensive and tell me you ain't no hoe, well neither was I.

 Furthermore, I don't deal in labels. I won't let anyone shame me into hating my vagina!! The reality is this, most women have sex with the intent of some kind of long term relationship whether they admit it or not, whether it happens or not. When it doesn't work out, you move on to the next Mr. Right, and that cycle keeps going until you get married. Furthermore, it only takes one person, one time to infect you. So this idea that you have to be sexin on every street corner to become infected with HIV is not what happens in real life.

Remember what I always say, if the penis ain't in your pocket, you have no idea what's it's doing when it ain't with you. And don't get all Holy on me. We all know someone who is messing around with someone and one of them have another partner somewhere. You just don't think it will ever be you. Child please, we all have the possibility of everything, including a cheating partner. And the other reality is this, you have know idea what they did before they met you!

Furthermore, some of you know every part of your partners body, but you have NO idea of their HIV status and to make matters worst, you talk about everything in your relationship BUT HIV. Like HIV is the death sentence of your affair. Well, if the discussion of HIV kills the relationship, I promise you, it was dead already. If you can't talk about living healthy with a person that you are sharing your body with, then that's the wrong person. 

There are some realities about HIV that we should consider. Every 9.5 minutes a person becomes infected with HIV in the United States. The Center for Disease Control  (CDC) estimates about 40,000 new cases of HIV a year.

As a Black woman, the saddest news is this, most African-Americans learn of their HIV status after years of being infected and on the onset of AIDS. Which means, we do not benefit from early treatment and care. Still, more African-Americans bear the brunt of new infections of HIV in the U.S., especially men who have sex with men. 

And this tidbit has blown me away, according to CDC, young people between the ages 13-19 years represent a new group of infections.

A whooping 47% of high school students are reported to have had one sexual partner, and 37% of them did not use a condom. And more than half did not know their HIV status. I should pause and say, that when we look at new infections across the board, about 38% of newly infected people were infected by people who did to know that they were infected.

What am I saying, we are having sex, gay, straight, young and old. In fact, we are having more sex then we are getting tested for HIV. I want to make this simple for you. Get Tested!

This is what we know for sure! 

1) The earlier you know your HIV status, the longer you will live. Things have changed so much since I was diagnosed with HIV. Treatment is nothing short of remarkable. If you know your status and get into treatment early, you can have a long wonderful life.

2) Knowing your HIV Status will reduce this vicious cycle. There is a 68% reduction of new HIV infections among people living with HIV. Yep, contrary to all the news hype, most infected people do not intentionally infect others. And the best treatment news yet, if an HIV infected person is in treatment and their viral load is undetectable, its about a 1% chance of them infecting their partner! YES I said 1% See why HIV Testing is Important?

3) Also, if a pregnant woman learns of her HIV status in the first trimester, she can also reduce the risk of infecting her unborn child by 2%. Remarkable huh? Yep, we have come along way with treatment of HIV. See why HIV Testing is Important?

Ok, I think I made the case for getting tested for HIV. So what's the problem now? You scared? Scared of what? Taking control? Living your best life? Well, this is what you are telling me: That you are not prepared to live your best life. I say that because knowing your HIV puts things into perspective. It moves you to a better place in your journey. A healthy place. A place of living with intent. And you all know that I believe living with intent transforms.

It's this simple, if your HIV test comes out positive, you get into care, stay in care and you continue to follow your dreams with additional planning, rather than being blind sided one day by being rushed into the hospital with an AIDS related infection.  Why not stop disease progression as early as you can? Learning your status with treatment does just that.

OK, so you come out negative, well now you have a chance to think about what you should do differently to be your best you to never have to live the journey of HIV.

Testing is simple! Testing is Free! Testing is Confidential!

1)  It's 20 minutes, but give yourself an hour. 

2) You get there, a testing counselor will ask you some questions and explain the test.  

3) The testing counselor will swap your month

4) 20 minutes later you have your results! 

Let me end by saying, many of you admire me, my strength and perseverance. Let me tell you, if I had not learned of my HIV status as early as I did, I would be dead right now, especially since treatment was not as good as it is today. 

What I want from you, more than being proud of me, is to be proud of yourself. Proud that you made a deliberate decision to learn your HIV status. For sure it will be one of the best best health decisions you can make.

Take your partner with you!!  And honestly if he/she won't get tested, then you should rethink the sex. Take your teenage children, sisters, brothers and cousins with you. Whether they are having sex or not, after that 20 minutes you will give them more to think about about in action then you ever would from talking.

You can be tested at Walgreens in the next three days for free. Also, any Department of Public Health or HIV clinic. To find a place for testing Click Here, just put in your zip code to get a site. As we approach National HIV Testing Day, June 27th, it is the right thing to do for your health. Knowing your HIV status  is living hold and healthy. 

Live With Intent!

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Now that I'm well into my 50's  there seems to be no turning back. I'm doing what I should have done in my 30's and for sure when I started to see my 40's that is, live with intent.  Well, I sort of lived with very limited intent for 20 years plus, that is, to tell my story to as many people as possible before I died. It was a lofty goal that I did very well. I mean I have spoken at literally hundreds of venues from colleges, churches, high schools and conferences. The only thing is that this goal was single focused and connected to death. Then, I didn't die. Limbo!

As crazy as this may sound, not dying honestly, left me scrambling day to day. I've done everything I had to do to get to the next day, but I rarely thought about the bigger picture and how next month or year was connected to today. As I move into the future, I know it's time for a paradigm shift. I not only need, but I want a new life construct to get me through the rest of my life. One that enriches both me and the lives of others. 

 I use to say that I was living in the midst of dying and that was my truth. For sure, as AIDS was eating away at my body, I was doing that thang. I got up every morning dressed up and participated in life, but expecting death. 

Now my vision for myself is to live until I do dieThat means that I'm living life with intent that encompasses the fullness of life. This means I ask myself, "Why am I doing this?" with every single thing. From the food I put in my mouth, to buying a handbag, to every blog I write. I ask these questions, what's my intent? Does it enrich my life or the lives of others? Does it feel right? Or do I have to convince myself? By the way, when you have to convince yourself or have someone else amen your corner, it's probably an action from the head and not the soul.  

I ask myself even with each purchase, Why this handbag, today? Is it to fill some void or make me forget? Is is to show off? Why do I have that need?  Is this purchase drama free?  Drama free meaning, will it leave me broke and unable to pay the rest of my bills? Will I like how I feel tomorrow if I do this today? Why do I want this thing in my life today? 

I search my soul for clarity because the mind can convince you to do some dumb shit. Y'all know I'm telling the truth. This is how it goes,  you say to yourself; if I don't get the handbag today, it may be gone when I come back. If I use some of my bill money for this, I will make it up when I get paid next week. And the list goes on and on. 

That even goes for a man, me included. Been there, done that thang that hurt my soul and rationalized it away. I'm not even going to entertain the justification list for a man, that's a blog for another day because the list is to long.  At the end of the day we just let our mind run all over our soul. The soul always knows what to do! ALWAYS!  And it always has your best interest. 

Oprah says that she ask the intent question with everything she does. She wants to be at peace going into a situation and coming out of a situation. That is the goal for me.  I want a clear and positive focus. I want to make the best moves for my soul. Lawd, yep, I'm planning for my 60's  and 70"s in my 50's. It is NEVER to late to change course. For me, this means that I have grown by leap and bounds. I'm proud of me.

I just finished reading Kris Jenner's autobiography. And I know some of you are not Kardashian fans. I've heard the mean things people say and while y'all talking shit about them, they have not missed one beat. Their brand keeps growing and growing. I'm curious to how people live their lives and build their brand, so I picked up her memoir, Kris Jenner And All Things Kardashian.  It was a pretty good book. For sure she has worked her ass off.

 After leaving her husband Robert Kardashian, for a younger guy who was a piece of shit, and then realizing it after the fact ( see the mind can make you think a good fuck is love), she found herself with no money of her own. 

When Kris met Bruce Jenner she was in the middle of a divorce with four kids and Bruce didn't even have a business card and was living pay check to pay check. She got debilitate about their life and helped to put him back on the map.  During that time, it was about putting food on the table. I know what that feels like. What am I going to do to simply get from day to day? Food on the table was her primary motivation. 

 It wasn't until Kris was hitting 50 and the show was in it's first season that she started living with intent for the future of her family, rather than hand to mouth.  She listened to her soul. Her gut told her it felt right and with everything she did, she asked the hard questions. What's next? How do we continue to be better and do better? How do I turn 15 minutes of fame into 30 and 30 into an hour? What does it mean to live our life on stage and how does it help all of us, her family and the universe. 

You must ask yourself the hard questions and be ready for the answers, your truths. You must also be prepared to do the hard work. You can't make sugar out of shit, but you certainly can make candy out of sugar and the last time I checked sugar was less than $3 bucks for a five pound bag; But first you got to buy that bag of sugar. Every action has a reaction.

You must be willing to buy into your own dream. No one is going to hand it to you on a silver platter. You must invest in yourself to reap any benefits. Every time I think about a new handbag, I remind myself of the tea line I'm working on. I ask myself, which is more important, Tea With Rae or slinging a new handbag?

No one owes you a damn thing. You reap what you sow. If you sow handbags, five years from now you will have a lot of old bags taking up space, if you invest in your feature, you will reap the benefits, with handbags you dreamed of.

 Kris said "Passion can be as powerful as preparation" Oprah put it this way, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." Kris had a vision and made a plan. She had a check list and every time a door opened she wasn't afraid to go through it.  Kris and Kim meet every six mouths to plan their next step. No matter what you think about Kim, she is one hard working woman, nor is she afraid of failure.  There is no lost in trying nor is their lost in preparation, something good going in, always means something good coming out. When are you going to STOP talking about that dream and put it into action?

Vision is everything. Your gut, your soul, whatever you want to call it is never wrong. The problem is the limitations we place on ourselves. My limitations were rooted in the life expectancy of a person living with AIDS. Back then it was three years. I was blinded by death and then I lived.

 Oprah said she had a vision that she would be teaching thousands of people and it was very different from her talk show. Her vision finally came true, but first after years of the Oprah Show she had to be willing to walk away from one thing to embrace another. Fear lays in your head, not in your soul. 

As I move forward with my life. I will pause and ask you, how are you preparing to live your best life? Intent is deliberate and deliberate means action. 

I'm  living my dream!! Tea With Rae: Wellness For The Mind, Body and Soul is coming! I'm in the process of developing a private label of speciality teas blended with the finest African Teas. The crafting of each tea will be closely supervised by me to bring you the best tea experience. Follow @teawithrae on Instagram and Twitter to be the first on the launch of Tea With Rae. I'm so excited!

Pride and Shame will kill you and your spirit this I know to be true. And it does not matter the circumstance, these two emotions have the ability to create chaos in your life from your health, to your job, and dating. These two will lead you down a path that add's absolutely no value to your life.  It's like this, for years I kept my HIV status a secret because I didn't want to be judged. I was more afraid of what people thought of me, over and above trying to live my best life with HIV. 

Shame dictated all of my behavior. For example, I didn't read about HIV because I didn't want anyone to catch me reading literature about HIV and draw the conclusion that I was HIV positive. This behavior left me in a state of ingorance about the disease. By the time I transitioned to AIDS I had no freaking idea what was happening to me. Honestly, I didn't even understand what a T-Cell count was. By then I had been going to the doctor for almost five years and had never bothered to ask or read on my own. I was living in a state of abysmal.  Even after it became clear that I needed to understand more about HIV, I would hide the AIDS Treatment magazines deep in my handbag. Once home, I would keep them out of eye sight. I put more energy into shit that had no positive outcome to my life, but only added stress and misery. I was focused on the wrong thing. 

My health was failing and I didn't have the courage to save myself. I allowed shame and pride to hold me captive. For sure, I was a complete and total mess. I was afraid to seek all the help I needed for the best outcome because of my captivity to the least important, less relevant things of all. 

Over the years, I've allowed shame and pride to dictate my path, which also dictated the outcome. This has been true for my health, my lifestyle and also in my relationships. How long have you continued to hang out with your group long past its value to your life? In fact, you often ask yourself, "Why the fuck do I keep hanging with this group or person, when I feel more pain than joy every time we are together?" But nonetheless, you stay locked into the madness because you don't want to be called the "trouble maker" so you make face value peace with your presence, but the inside of you feels like it's under attack over and again.

Yep, how many women have gone to the altar dispite the fact that their soul told them over and again  that this was the wrong path. It does not feel good, but you get more and more locked in, out of pride and shame and before you know it you are in a marriage that is chipping away at your very core. Once I stayed in a relationship hoping that he would marry me and when it became clear that he was never going to marry me, I continued to stay because my pride didn't want to admit to the outside world that I had wasted my pretty year in and year out.   

I can give many more examples of how we allow pride and shame rule over and above making the best decision for our life at that moment in time. I'm so glad that I've turned that chapter in my life. I'm at such a good place. I'll continue to say it over and again, I like who I have become. I mean really like me, who I am, what I do or don't do and even how I do it.  I've been so liberated from people's opinions of me, but I've also been liberated from the negative committe in my head. I have euthanized that bitch. 

Today, I live from the place of my soul, not my head. Let me tell you, the head will create more problems for you then your soul ever will. The head will have you married to a man with two children and a dog and brotha man ain't thought past your vagina. The head will make you buy a car your paycheck cannot afford. It will make you stay in a relationship that sucks the very life out of you. Yep, the head will make you think you are in a relationship with a man who has clearly told you that he is not in a relationship with you, for real for real.  The head will mess you up so bad, that you miss the blessings that God has for you. Yep, God always gives us what we need, it's the head that tells us that it's not enough, or you want it in a different package.

I want to utilize everything God gives me for my journey. I will never look a gift horse in the mouth. God has arranged the Universie in such a way that everything works in your favor, even the fucked up in the end will be a footstool to a better you. Remember the Bible says, that the rejected stone became the cornerstone. That's real, I've lived that in my own life. 

Today, I'm not letting anything interfere with me living my best life. I take what I have to work with and use it for my good, without the burden of the judge and jury that lives in my head or on Facebook. For example, everyone knows my finances have been non other than scares these last five years.

 I've stop bitching about it because I honestly haven't missed a meal, even when the refrigerator has been bare. It's like this, about a month ago, my case worker suggested that I apply for the food pantry. Yep, it's been that bad. And without any hesitation I said yes. And when I get approved I'm going to put on my red lipstick and walk right in that place and get me and Chloe food.

 I'm not confused that God has arranged everything in my favor to get me to what's next. The Bible says that God will provide your every need. I've concluded that my soul wants me to be here to do the work that I was called to do and I'm listening loud and clear. So shame, pride and the judgments that come with it has been put to rest. Your Soul is pleading with you to live YOUR best life, not the life your head made you believe or the life that others deemed appropriate, but  the best life that God designed just for you. Listen to your soul, it will point you in the right direction. 

Post Script: Thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes!

Reflecting On 53!

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I turned 53 today! Honestly, I never imagined me at this age and I'm not quite sure how it should be, so I'm listening to my soul because it always knows what to do.

Of course when I was younger I thought by this age, I would be married with at least one child and a dog. I had it all planned out, so I thought. I would be this big time political organizer working on important electoral campaigns across this country. Back then, I had goals like many young women. I believed with hard work you could achieve anything you want. Yep, my goals were written in gold, so I thought. I would get a PhD in Political Science and I would be the "go to" woman for important matters on the American political scene.

Even after I was diagnosed wit HIV in March 1987 almost four years after becoming infected, I believed that my life would be unchanged by it. The following fall, at age 24, I went on the 1988 campaign trail for the Democratic primaries, by then my second presidential campaign as a senior staff person.  I traveled across the country organizing the youth and student arm for  Jesse Jackson's Presidential Campaign. I even tracked delegates and worked the floor of the Democratic Convention in Atlanta. I was doing that thing, working with some of Black Americas top political players like Alexis Herman, former Secretary of Labor, Dorothy Height, Ernie Green, Mayor Marion Barry, Donna Brazile, Ron Brown and the list goes on and on. 

Life was going as plan. But by 1992 I made a transition to AIDS and I literally saw death looking straight at me. Back then the life expectancy for a person with full-blown AIDS was 3 years and I was on that time line. By 1995 my T-Cell count had dropped to an all time low of 8 and I was on my third bout of Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP). Treatment for HIV was mediocre and I had no hope for a future.

By then, my life purpose was to live each day to the best of my ability. To tell my story to as many people as I could, as many ways as I could before I died. I almost never thought about tomorrow and that meant I never turned down a gig for today. I lived in the right now in everything from spending to speaking. If I wasn't somewhere speaking or conducting an  interview I was in bed resting. The quality of my life had dwindled to nothing. My busy schedule kept dying off my mind. And doing every single thing my doctor asked of me  kept me alive.

Now be clear, you dog gone straight there was a God factor, but if I didn't have a doctor who was determine to keep me alive or if I missed one beat I would have died.

Even when I was taking 32 pills a day, or drinking 72 ounces a water a day to avoid kidney stones from the medication, or throwing up, or shitting on myself I always followed the rules. The side-effects were so vicious that there were days I couldn't hold my body up. Between the combination of my compromised immune system not being able to fight off infections and the side-effects from the HIV medications, most days I didn't know if I was going or coming. 

In the end, it all worked out. By 1998 new medications were on the horizon and my doctor never missed a beat. She dished out new medications as they came and I complied with her instructions. We were in sic every step of the way. 

I started to see concrete improvements in my health by 2000 as did most of the HIV landscape. HIV/AIDS was becoming a chronic illness, rather than a death sentence. But only if a person was diagnosed early, got in treatment and remained in treatment, they could live many more years.

So here I am, living many more years then anyone ever imagined. For sure the damage that has been done to my immune system cannot be repaired, and I find myself having more complications than the average newly diagnosed person living with HIV today.

Something as small as getting a tooth pulled, often ends up with an infection and antibiotic on one end, and on the other, it still takes me more than two weeks to heal over the average person with HIV. But these struggles are small in the scheme of my journey.

 I continue to take my medication and my doctor has said that I have many more years ahead of me.

I've been muddling through these last 5 years or so. I've adjusted to the good things about my health and I've also adjusted to the changes all of this has had on my speaking career. HIV/AIDS isn't the sexy topic that it use to be. And when organizations do bring speakers, they tend to draw from the younger activist, rather than the seasoned activist like me. It has hurt my pocket for sure. This year has been the worst of all. I made less money this past year then I did when I was 17 years old, for real, for real. But thanks be to God, I have a roof over my head and food to eat. But lack of gigs has not stopped me one bit. I  continue doing what I do wherever, whenever, and however I can. About five years ago  I added blogging, tweeting and all things Social Media as a way for me to continue to do the work.  I know that I'm alive for a  reason, a purpose and I do the best that I can with what I  have.

At 53 I embrace my journey even more than ever. I acknowledge that God has more work for me. My memoir Unprotected is on the Horizon. This story, my story, my full story needs to be told. I will spend the summer finishing up the edits.  Yep, there's still more work to be done with editing, layout, book cover and all things that make a book.  But hold tight,  World AIDS Day, December 1, 2015 is the final release date. You can pre-order HERE.

I want to help people one on one. It's time to get my Life Coaching ministry back up. I've had a few clients in the last couple of years but I've not put any energy into getting new clients. I'm changing that today. I feel that call and I've got to answer it loud and clear.  I didn't  go to seminary for nothing.

God has gifted me with the ability to help people get to next. To not use my gifts in all possible ways is to squander that gift. By the way, if you are interesting in hiring me as your Life Coach email me at

 I'm alive! The gratitude that I have for my life and ministry are beyond words. Honestly, I wouldn't give anything for my journey. With the help of God, I have done some pretty amazing things with my adult life. I'm grateful for everyone who has supported me in all the ways you have supported me, especially your prayers! God has answered your prayers. 

It's never to late to plan, but planning without action is futile. I'm excited about this next phase of my life. After coming out of that depression  these last six months, I feel like I have been reborn. God has a way of giving you clarity even at the darkest moments of your life. 

I'm thankful for every step of my journey.  Happy Birthday to me! 

Post Script: In honor of my birthday  RLT Collection is 53% off. The coupon code at checkout: birthday. SHOP HERE



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