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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 raelewisthornton@gmail.com


 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

Death Pussy!

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Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! I'm honored to have been asked to be an ambassador for this day with other incredible AIDS Activist by Women's Health. Since I don't have a speaking engagement today, I'll I'll be taking questions from 11:00-5:00 on both my Twitter and Instagram accounts. You know the rules, nothing is to personal. you can find me on both accounts @RaeLT the Hashtag for the day is #NWAGHAAD


Also, I thought that I would repost a blog that was reprinted in my book, The Politics of Respectability. There is still so much stigma attached to HIV and that must change. This blog post speaks to the core of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. But it also speaks to how we as women see ourselves. I believe when we love ourselves first, we live our best lives. Get Tested! Use Condoms but first talk to your partner before he touches one breast *wink* See ya on Social Media later today


Death Pussy!



Last year I wrote well over 200 blogs, but Death Pussy was one of my most read... I thought that I would share it just one more time. I hope for those who didn't get a chance to read it last year, this recap will be enlightening... For those who did read it,  you will either get a new aha moment or be reminded of the old one!



I've never had anyone call my vagina "death pussy," at least not to my face. But I have had someone call it "diseased pussy." I've even been called "that AIDS Bitch." Each time I wanted to be mad, but I couldn't. I had to stand like the strong black woman that I am and take that hit like a champ. The fact of the matter is that my vagina is infected with HIV and I do have AIDS. The fact is HIV has taken up camp right between my legs and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. But, I've learned over the years not to put a lot of energy into what I cannot change, and my HIV status is one of them.


But Sunday when I was reading the RLT Reads Book Club first book, What Look Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, I was stopped in my tracks. In one part, a young man refers to Ava, the HIV positive woman in the book, as "death pussy." I was so stuck that I had to put the book down and go bead to clear my head. I thought about it long and hard. I was really shaken. The very core of me was sadden by this description of a woman infected with HIV. I understood the writer's goal of showing the ugliness that people with HIV must face, but it ripped at the very core of me. And y'all know that I have very thick skin, but I was genuinely hurt. It was as if I had been transcended into that very scene in the book. I felt like that young punk was talking to me and every woman in the world with HIV. Suddenly, HIV became an incredibly heavy load, a burden to bear.


It made me wonder if that's what people thought about me. And honestly, more so, if men thought of my vagina in the very same way. It seemed to speak to the core of my self-worth. I started to wonder, had men reduced my self-worth right down to my vagina? Forget that I'm intelligent, smart, educated, articulate, compassionate, driven, cute as a button, and the list goes on and on. Has this been the problem with my dating life in recent years? Was I that much of a liability? Death is a heavy load to carry between your legs. But when I really reflected, what disturbed me the most was in that moment, I had bought into the madness also. Just by thinking such a thing, I had thrown all my self-worth out the window and reduced my value right down to my vagina?


But, that's the way of the world. Our self-worth has very much been connected to our vaginas for centuries, all around the world. A woman's worth has been placed between her legs by man since the beginning of time. Even with Eve, our punishment became the blood that flows each month from between our legs. And in ancient times, a woman had to be isolated during menstruation and then "purified" before entering back into society.


The value of our vaginas has risen and dropped like the stock market at the whim of men. STOP IT! Before I go any further, this is not about male bashing. Why does everything have to be about them? Why can't we women talk freely about us, and let it be about us? Why is the discussion about us, co-opted by them? Why can't our truths, where they intersect with men, be articulated without being perceived as criticism about them. And the fact that I'm even qualifying myself speaks to the very core of the problem.


Yes, our vaginas have been used like a commodity, with no value to us. It's only worth has been where it intersects with the agenda of men. Our vaginas have been mutilated so we can have no pleasure of our own. This horror has been even forced on baby girls, implanting a memory of pain and terror to our vaginas, making us hate it before we really know what it is.


They have been using our vagina's baby making machine to help drive a labor force to build this country. Slave owners made it clear, our vaginas belonged to them, for their pleasure and for their business.


In modern times, our vaginas have been used for human trafficking for the pleasure of men; enslaving our mind, body and spirit. Our vagina's have been raped, beaten, and used as a tool to advance political agendas.  Our virginity has been taken from us in a misguided belief that our untouched vaginas will cure them of their diseases.


Make no mistake, we have many subliminal messages drilling into us over and over again that the value of our vaginas are connected to something greater than who we are. Even what appears to be innocent advertising sends a message. Honestly, take a good long look at the Dolce and Gabbana ad, then take a good look at the picture of the soldiers and the woman. The similarities outweigh the differences.

So when I heard the term, "death pussy," I had a heavy heart. It forced me to sit down and take a long hard look at the history of women. But it also made me look at  my own history. What got me to this destination called HIV. But most important, why would I consider at any level, that such a term as "death pussy" would define me. Had I reduced my entire self-worth right down to my vagina? Was this leftover residue from my childhood, being violated by the men in my family who should have protected me? Being taught that any love that I get from a man may begin with popping popcorn and watching tv, but ends between my legs?


I had to gather myself. Remind myself that God created me in His image, all that I am, mind, body and spirit. I cannot let anyone determine the value of my vagina anymore. I made myself a cup of tea and became still in the moment. Instead of focusing on the darkness of my life, I shifted to the goodness of my life.


l had worked too hard and too long in therapy to be thrown right back into the self-loathing that got me there in the first place. I cannot believe the hype! I will not believe the hype! I am a wonderful Black Woman and any man would be lucky to have me. If a man can't see that I am living in my life, that there is nothing that says death about me, then he does not see my true value. And I believe that a man who does not see my value is not worthy of me. It's like putting pearls on swine, they have no place together. And I will never again give the best of me to have just a part of him.


But most important, how I see myself will dictate how I treat myself. This is not just about a man but about what I do with my life and how I live that life. Your self-worth must begin with you, about you, for the greater  you, to be used in the larger society. But you can never fulfill your purpose in life if you do not see yourself as God sees you and intended for you to be.


There is much truth to the Bible verse that says, "As a person thinkth so is he." But I submit, it's the easiest thing in the world to tell someone, "Change your mind and your ass will follow." The truth of the matter is that change takes time and work. You cannot will the darkness away, you've got to dig yourself to the light. And once you get there, you gotta constantly remind yourself that the light is where God intended for you to be.



Have you ever had a stupid ass conversation in your head that led you to do something stupid that then lead you to justify your stupid shit? I know I have, a thousand times over. 


Like being mad at a man because of whatever it was that he did you didn't like or maybe what he didn't do that you thought he should have done. You play it over and over in your head and by the time you approach him, you have written a play with 3 Acts and before you know it's something you never intended for it to be and now you gotta hold your guns whereby creating more of a mess and still have to justify that shit.


 I've come to learn in my old age, that sometimes when people don't measure up to what we want at that very moment, it may not even be about us, but about them. Sometimes we need to get out of our head and just be still. Let it all play out in real time, not imagined time. The ego can do a job on you, for real, for real. 


Like, have you ever purchased something that you really didn't have the money to do but you justified why you should buy it? I know I have twenty thousand times over. 


You tell yourself, it's on sale or, it might not be here when my next paycheck comes around, or I need to look fabulous for that event. And let me add, the last of these might be the only truth, you do want to look fabulous for the event and the people there of, and none of it has to do with you. But your ego has convinced you that this outfit will make you the belle of the ball. And then at the end the ball, as you remove all the glam, you realize that the same people who liked you before the ball still do and those that didn't well, still don't. 


But now the damage has been done in the short time of what 2-3 hours because of what you thought would happen, but didn't. 


At the end of the day you see how insignificant your new outfit was in the scheme of things. But you allowed your ego to talk you into spending what you really didn't have to spend and now you're stretching your dollars just to get to your next paycheck. Which means you're stressed more than ever and now you talking about, "Lord when will things change for me?" But the real question is when will you change for yourself? 


When things get hard we give God credit for stuff that ain't got nothing to do with Him. Free-will is a monster of a beast to manage. I know in my own life, I've allowed others to abuse me and I've abused myself in so many different ways willing my free-will like at a roulette table, taking a chance with each spin. And with each defeat, I lost a part of myself that could never be regained. Sometimes you even spin the wheel and your life is changed forever. 



Have you ever been mad at someone for something that they did to you in real time? But then long after it's been said or done you are still holding on to the mad? And then the mad takes on a life of its on. Oprah said that once she was so mad at a person, for well over 10 years, and then she saw that person walking down Michigan Ave laughing and going on with her life, while Oprah was holding onto the mad. We allow our ego to hold us hostage for something that cannot be undone. All you can really do is move on because holding on will imprison your spirit. 


Our ego spends a lot of time convincing us of this and that in some narrow context that we make ourselves believe. When in real time ,we need to step back and watch the ego jump the hurdles in our head and after it has finished, say "oh ok" and keep it moving. You are not your ego and you don't have to do everything it suggest to you. But you do have to become centered so that you can operate in the best of you. 


You can't allow your ego on one end and your low self worth on the other, which is still ego in reality, run your life. You have got to be willing to walk away from some stuff and let that be ok. You don't like how a man treats you, then stop participating. There are so many men in this world  that you don't have to stay stuck with the one that does not value your worth. 


You don't like being broke every pay period, then stop spending what you don't have. Figure out a way to make what you have work. Look, in these recent years I've changed up my outfits over and over with just a new blouse, or shoes or handbag rather than a new suit, blouse, shoes and handbag.


You don't like the hold others actions have on you, let it go. I recently had some craziness with my biological family, meaning the white side of my family, who I don't have a relationship with. I'm not going into details here, I'm saving it for the memoir. I was so fucking hurt by there actions. But I had to decide, I could let them make me bitter or I can keep going. The first thing I thought to myself, "I've worked so fucking hard to get through this depression, I will not let them send me back." I said it everyday out loud for two weeks and I said it to my closet friends, so that they could give me positive support. Sometimes friends can help to keep you in the chaos just by the direction of the conversation.  To not have a set-back, I knew that I had move to closure. So I signed their fucking document and kept it moving. Then I thought about it, they have done absolutely nothing for me in 52 years, why would I expect something now? People are who they are and you better believe that shit or you will allow them to hurt you over and again.




Sometimes the victory is just letting go of people, places and things. I've learned in these last years with my financial struggle that I didn't need all the things that I thought I needed. Life has a way of making you take notice. After I had sold almost all my designer handbags and most of my St. John Knits, I learned that I still had enough to look great every single day. I always make it work. 


I heard a story about how they capture monkeys that gave me an 'aha moment'. They put rice into a trap and when the monkey smells the rice he reaches in and grabs the rice. The rice becomes the prison of his own making. But the monkey has a choice, he can let go of the rice and be free or hold on and be imprisoned. Over the years I've held onto a lot of people and things and they have been the prison of my own making. I stayed way too long in unhealthy relationships. I've bought more things that I ever should have and the biggest prison of all has been my family. I became an overachiever for my Mama who raised me, rather than myself. I thought that she would shower me with love as I excelled, but she never did, not even as she was dying. She died how she lived, most people do. 


All these prisons that I made for myself year after year. Allowing my ego to convince me that my thoughts were my reality, when in fact my reality was my right now. If a man treated me bad, it didn't matter how well I sucked his dick, once I was done, he was the man he was before I began. It didn't matter how many clothes I had from the best designers, those who would love me, would love me in Walmart clothes and most of all, dressing myself  up on the outside did not change what I was on the inside. That took work, of which no amount of money could buy. 


Only when I let go of the rice, did I start to live my best life. These day's I practice watching my ego jump hurdles in my head and then say, "Oh Ok"  Sometimes, I win and sometimes I lose, but the more I practice, the better the person I am. 


This time 20 years ago, I was the talk of Black America. My cover story in the December issue of Essence magazine had hit the new stands. Essence had dared to put a woman on the cover of their magazine that was not a celebrity or a super model, but a typical young black women, living with AIDS.


I was every young black woman who thought that she was doing everything right in her dating life. Despite of the fact that I had grown up in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive household, I had managed to escape, drugs and alcohol. I had gone to college. I had a professional career.


I had done everything I thought to do as a young woman living in the 80's. I never had a one night. I never had sex on the first date, but I was in search of the right man to live my fairy tail life, for the rest of my life. You know, a career, a husband, a house and 2.5 kids, that's two kids and a dog. With dating came sex. There were very few virgins in the 80's. This was the era of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing and Diana Ross, "Love Hangover." Sexually Transmitted diseases were not on the radar. The first cases of AIDS were primarily white, gay and male. Even as late as 1987 Cosmopolitan magazine told women if they only had "heterosexual sex," they could not get HIV.  For the most part, the rule for young women of my generation was to not get pregnant out of wedlock and embarrass your mother. We saw "protection" as birth control pills.


Until 1991 when Magic Johnson announced that he was infected with HIV most of us in Black America only saw HIV/AIDS through the eyes of our gay relative on one end and our drug addict cousin on the other.  Or the television version, white, gay, male that looked like death was knocking at their door. Even then, we thought Magic was an exception to the rule. Many dismissed him as a "special case." Rich, good looking, and famous, we concluded that he probably had enough sex for a hundred men, thats how he became infected. Since most of us don't have that kind of sex, HIV was out of our reach, so we thought.


Then came me and the Essence cover story.  I had only been speaking for about six months when Susan Taylor asked me to be on the cover and tell my story. At the time, I had been infected with HIV since 1983, but I didn't learn about my status until I donated blood December 1986.


So when I appeared on the cover of Essence, I had actually known my HIV status for 7 years.  But for the most part I had basically kept my status a secret. Other than the men I dated, those first seven years I only told 5 people. When I made a transition to AIDS in 1992, I started to disclose to my friends. Then on a fluke, about a year later or should I say in God's purpose and plan, I started speaking locally in Chicago high schools. Then I met Susan. It all happened so quickly.  I had no idea the impact my story would have on the lives of others or on me; or that it would place me in the national arena and change my life forever.


In retrospect, it was our density, mine and Essence magazine. Even among Essence staff there was a debate over my cover story. It was pure audacity at the time. I thank God for His perfect plan and for giving both me and Susan Taylor the, editor and chief of Essence  the courage to follow that little voice inside of us, that said "this feels right. "For years women have told me the impact my story had on their life. Women still bring that magazine to speaking engagements for autographs.


There were other controversies around the cover story. Many AIDS Activist were angry with me because of the title., "Im Young, I'm Young free, I'm Dying of AIDS." Declaring that I was dying on the cover of a national magazine they said, made HIV/AIDS dark and hopeless. But honestly, AIDS was that dark back then and to give some pep talk contrary to the current situation would have been a lie. I was proud and not deterred by criticism.






Twenty years later, my Essence cover story has become one of the most iconic articles of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and I humbled.


I am equally thankful that I lived to see the 20th anniversary of this cover story. I thank God for my doctor who never gave up on me when  medications barley kept you alive. She was always looking for next; And no matter how complicated the next treatment was or how sick it made me I did it.


 I am also grateful for the continued relationship with Essence magazine. You can check out the 20th anniversary feature story on me in the December 2014 issue. You can also watch my video interview with Essence HERE


If you missed the December issue featuring me at the newsstands, you can read it HERE



Foot Note: In Celebration of the 20th anniversary... RLT Collection is 20% off! Coupon Code RLT20 And take a peak at the 20 Collection  that I designed in honor. Fab Bracelet designs all in red. SHOP HERE

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



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