My friend Rae has AIDS.
She is my friend today, but 27 years ago, I never imagined we would know one another. Her story impacted my life. It changed my direction and quite possibly saved my life. As I watched many of my dear and close friends perish to this unrelenting and impartial disease, I listened to her as intently as possible, I did not want to be a statistic. Her words in Essence stung and pierced, yet I listened nonetheless.
Rae is very used to stories like mine. She has been a life saver from the beginning of this epidemic, and her strength has saved her own life as well. She is our life-guard and we owe her our attention, today especially. Moreover, we owe her our attention each day as we walk through this life free of HIV. She has preached non-stop about the importance of testing, using condoms and being in control of your sexual health. She could have easily crawled into an anonymous life leaving young heterosexuals to fend for themselves but she didn't. She shared her sentence and showed us that this infection knows no color, no gender, no age and no sexual orientation. It indiscriminately invades its victims and leaves them to fend off illness after illness while it mutates and changes form - shift-shaping across the medical field leaving innocent victims and researchers to climb the walls searching for a cure.
When meeting Rae Lewis-Thornton for the first time, you are wrapped in warmth and the glow of hugs and her dear smile. She is loving and open, raw and candid ~ even if you are simply talking about shoes or cupcakes. Rae doesn't play about anything. She is a true Diva who speaks her mind on any subject with integrity and surprising depth. Smart as a whip, Rae is a huge presence and she is just what HIV/AIDS needs in its corner bringing awareness.
Today is World Aids Day, and Rae Lewis-Thornton wants to know "Do You Know Your Status?" She has taken her message to social media and is blazing the trail with honest "tweets" and facebook jaunts that promote safe sex, and diligent, if not meticulous care, of one's medical knowledge.
I caught up with Rae a few days after she completed intense rounds of intravenous medicines on top of her regimen, or cocktail as it is commonly referred to. Having lived with HIV, and now AIDS, for decades has earned Rae an Emmy, honorary Delta sorority status and a host of recognition and fame. This has been alongside her endurance of physicians, treatments, diagnosis and uncanny pharmaceutical knowledge.
What does all of this mean to you? It means that you should KNOW YOUR STATUS and additionally, you should know Rae. Beginning today, and continuing throughout this week, you will learn a bit about Rae and the life she is leading. You will learn about HIV, AIDS and what you can do for your community.
For the next few days, House will be taking you in depth to life with HIV/AIDS and how you can keep safe, get tested, learn more and protect your world and those you love. We will also tell you about the alarming rates in which the viral load is climbing.
Be sure to turn on BET beginning today for interviews with Rae and video. She will also be on 106 Park.
Stay Tuned. Stay Informed. WORLD AIDS DAY 2010 begins right now!