I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Usher-Herpes and Disclosure...

When I first heard about the lawsuit against Usher, I made no attempt to learn any of the details. I dismissed that shit weeks ago when I heard about the supposedly green discharge coming out of Usher's penis, (which is not a symptom of herpes) but was claimed in the first alleged law suit according to the tabloid outlets. I was suspect.

But really, personally, I respect Usher's right to privacy so I had decided to let it ride. Living with a STD is so very personal. But then after the press conference yesterday with the woman who is suing Usher because he could have infected her, but didn't, I thought that maybe I needed to weigh in.

Let me say right off the bat, according to a California law, it is against the law for a person with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) to have sex and not disclosure that information to their sexual partner prior to the sexual encounter. (And there lays the biggest problem for me; the criminalization of a medical condition.)

Whether the STD is Herpes or HIV, the law requires disclosure. Now, I'm not a lawyer but this is the legal bases for the law suit. What I don't know is if the sex had to happen in the state of California? I'm still trying to unpack this legal portion.

Background: Apparently,  the claim of court documents published by Radar Online and other tabloid sites indicated that Usher was allegedly diagnosed with herpes between 2009-2010. The articles claim that in 2012 Usher was allegedly sued by Maya Fox-Davis and settled the case for over a million dollars. This may be true, but honestly I'm still trying to find a legitimate source. None of the tabloid articles show the actual court documents. And might I add, that all the legitimate news sources are reporting based on the tabloid articles. So based on these tabloid reports that Usher has herpes, other alleged sexual partners of Ushers have come forward, two women and one man in a lawsuit handled by Lisa Bloom. While one of the persons in the suit is named "Jane Doe" and one "John Doe," one person Quantasia Sharpton, also named in the suit held a press conference with Lisa Bloom, the attorney of record.

Apparently, Quantasia tested NEGATIVE for herpes but is suing Usher for what he might have done. At her base line, is the issue of consent. She indicated, that she would have never had a one night stand with Usher had she known he had herpes and by not disclosing, he took away her choice. I hear you girl! I agree, you should have had the right to choose the terms of your one night stand.

At the end of the day though, I'm just thankful that she was not infected. This is especially true since she had a child after her alleged sexual encounter with Usher. It means her child was never exposed to Herpes. Mother to child transmission is one of the greatest risk for a woman with herpes. The way I see it, she just learned of Usher's alleged herpes status with the rest of us, so there's no long term emotional abuse. Quantasia is not infected, she had an alleged fun night with a celebrity, walked away from that alleged sexual encounter, started a family and kept it moving. I say, what you didn't know, didn't hurt you, go in peace. 

Making an example out of Usher for something he could have done, girl that's like calling the kettle black. I can think of a whole lot of lessons to be learned from this alleged sexual encounter that happened with two people who knew each other for less then two hours. But God forbid, I'm accused of slut shamming either of them, so I'll leave that one alone.

But I will say, if I  ummmm get invited to a fine ass celebrity's hotel room,  just pick one, yep him, you better believe I'm going to take, not one pack but two packs of condoms, just in case, us two consenting adults decide to do that thang. Cause shoot, I already got two STD's, and with my damaged immune system, I surly don't want anything else. At the end of the day, you never know who got what. I understand in 2017, that an STD's know no race, class, or gender. It's all equal in the game of unprotected sex. 

Now, on to the next point, but I should also add that at least one person in the law suit  against Usher has tested positive for herpes, but whether the person was infected by Usher is for a court to decide.

Bottom Line
 Lisa Bloom has filed this law suit to shame Usher into disclosing whether or not he actually has herpes and possibility broke the law by not disclosing his status to his partners prior to sex so she can pursue damages. This is ambulance chasing at its best. 

Be clear herpes is very common. The CDC reports that 1-6 persons have herpes in the United States. Furthermore, most have not been diagnosed.  Most cases are "subclinical" meaning there are not recurrent symptoms. So lets say, you have never been tested for herpes, but you have been exposed, at the end of the day, unless you test all of your sexual partners, you can't really claim one person. The way it could be narrowed down is with your very first outbreak which usually  appears within 4 days  after exposure but as long as 12 days. Mostly people go through life  with very little clinical manifestations of genital herpes and research shows that recurrent outbreaks lessen over time, unless you are immunocompromise like me.

I mean real talk here. I dated a guy that had a herpes legion on his penis, and I asked him what it was. He told me that it was some kind of skin thing that he get maybe once a year and by the time he thinks about going to the doctor, it's gone. We had the flight from hell, me trying to convince him that it was herpes. That's how many people in the real world deal with herpes.

With three plaintiffs on board, I see a big payday if it proves to be true. Which is my second big problem, for sure I think the methodology is tacky and I'm being nice? This type of strong arming tactics  is extremely problematic and makes it even harder for people living with a STD. The headlines, the memes, the jokes, the speculation all help to create an environment that strengthens stigma and shame. Who would ever want to disclose in this climate, especially a person of means.

I have so much to say as woman living with both HIV and Herpes. I know that I'm walking a thin line between what is legal, politically and ethically correct, but these are some truths that people with an incurable sexually transmitted disease live with everyday.

First of all, I do believe that a person should disclose  to their partner that they are living with a sexually transmitted disease. I believe it creates a foundation of trust from the beginning. It also says to the person, I respect your right to make a choice about your body and life.  Now, I know others,  even physicians who treat HIV, that believe the stigma is so thick it leaves people in isolation and therefore, disclosure should be secondary to getting to know a person. Especially now that a person living with HIV with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV. I wonder how they feel about herpes. I'll do some checking and get back.

So while I think one should disclose early, I also understand the hinderance to disclosure, leaves one walking a tight rope. The  shame and the stigma already attached to STD's and then the personal damage done to a person after disclosure. Remember Charlie Sheen, he disclosed his HIV status and the woman took a picture of his medicine cabinet and blackmailed him. Remember the young girl I blogged about Cicely Boden who was murdered after she disclosed her HIV status. The fear is real. Even me, in my early days, I had to make real sure that a person wasn't going to take my information and use it against me. For sure I was diligent about condom use, but I was trotting a thin line. To tell a man I had herpes was one thing but to tell him I also had HIV, for sure made me hands down look like a whore. When in real life, shit happens and that effects our lives.

Disclosure is tricky, I mean, especially if you're just hookin up. I mean one night stands and hook-ups are trick, trick tricky when it comes to disclosure. Who wants to tell something so personal to someone who you have known for a few hours, or you are not that serious about?  But again, who's having sex like that in 2017? Yes, there was a tad of shaming in my last sentence I admit. Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking you doing your thang! But for the love of yourself, if you are hookin up, then use a fucking Condom.  I admit, disclosure is one thing and condom use is another and they should both be taken seriously.

But when it comes to disclosure, what about those early days of a potential relationship? How soon do you tell? Before or after you learn that he leaves the toilet seat up. What happens when you tell and learn that his credit score is jacked up, or he's full of shit. When do you tell? Who do you trust with information that can damage your reputation in a matter of minutes? Even after I started disclosing to my partners, I didn't tell my mother until right before the Essence Magazine article was released for fear of being deemed a slut by a mother who never faced that her husband was a child molester.

This is the bottom line, neither of these STD's is a walk in the park. Why not get your groove on and love yourself at the same time. No one has the luxury of sex without a Condom. I was talking to an OBGYN doctor and she said that she makes her husband use a condom. After twenty years of seeing any and everything in her clinics, she's not taking a chance.

More To Come...

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Murder of Jessica Hampton

Last week today I was waiting on the red line train and very much annoyed that it was delayed. Little did I know that a young woman, Jessica Hampton had been brutally murdered just seven stops behind me.

Jessica who was 25 years old was stabbed by Aurther Jones. As she cried for help and tried to fight back, he contuined to stab her. Once she was on the floor of the train, he slit or throat and turso as by standers looked on. The video of her murder and body went viral and the family asked Facebook to take it down. In the police press conference they believed it to be a crime of Domstic Volience.

Well on Monday one of my biggest supporters reached out to me on Twitter to ask, "Did I think HIV was a reason to murder someone." I was like WHAT THE FUCK? She went on to explain that members of his family was claiming he stapled learning the Jessica had infects him with HIV. She also expalined that I would not find this in standard news, but the topic has indeed gone viral on Facebook

I did my research and learns that people were reporting Authur's Cousion Facebook post as on one end justification and on the other AIDS Education. I was like WHAT THE FUCK? I know I had to do something, but as the week dwedeled on and my throat infection hand with stitches from a freak acceidnt I thought that I would let it pass. As I searched for articles there was still no mention of HIV. So I had decided to just tweet about it and call it a day. 

BUT THEN THIS HAPPEN! I was sitting on the train yesterday, in front of me were 3 young men and beside me were there 2 friends. I'm going to guess the age range was between 17-22. They were laughing and cracking jokes about me crocheting in a cute sort of way and I joined in. Then one of the guys asked his friends, "man what would you have done if you were on the train when dude was stabbing that girl?" I jumped in, "Jumpped on his fucking back" and the conversation began. I explain that at one point he dropped the knife. One brother said, "oh man that was a way in, I would have tackled dude then." Another guy said, "Man I heard he was mad because she gave him HIV." IT WAS ON! Rae the AIDSActivist kicked in, they were listening but wasn't convinced. Then I said, I know what I'm talking about I have HIV for 33 years. They FROZE, I turned and looked each Brotha in the face, can't tell huh? SILIENCE.. Then I said, and this is a bad day with no make up and my hair half combed. My stop approached and I got up, leaving them speechless I said the problem is we are not educated about HIV. BAM! I got off the train leaving them FUCKED UP! 

So let's talk about all of this stigma and mis-education around HIV. Let's talk about Domstic Volience, murder and something gotta change in out Communtiy. I'm having a live FACEBOOK Chat tonight, June 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm CST. You will be able to ask me questions... Here is my Facebook fanpage link. You have to like the page and the dicussion will be there and NOT on my Facebook personal page.

If you want BACKGROUND on HIV infection read my recent blog post, "I Met A Man, Can I Give HIm HIV"

This is what we know for sure...

1) Aurther Jones murdered Jessica Hampton on the Red Line Train as people watched
2) The police are saying it was a case of Domstic Voliece with no mention of HIV
3) Aurther Jines lawyer indicated yesterday that he was Schoniza
4) Auther Jones Cousion posted a Facebook Post staying that Jessica gave Him HIV and he stapped. To explain why he murdered her.
5) people reposted her post and it went viral... With NJ berv

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tap Into The Resources and Live Well Beyond HIV!

I'll take aging with HIV over not aging at all any day. Now that's some real talk; but I have to be honest, muddling through HIV requires a lot of energy, work and support. Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to have a team of wonderful people to help me manage living with HIV, from understanding my medication to my emotional well being.

I want what I have for everyone living with HIV, that is to create a support system for themselves in all areas of their lives. What I know for sure, is that living with HIV in isolation will create depression, which creates its own set of issues.

You all may recall in my blog post, "Grey Hair and I Don't Care," I talked about the need to access resources as one ages with HIV and the wonderful resource page Well Beyond HIV. Well, I'm continuing to partner with the team over at Walgreens. They invited me over to learn about the services they provide for those living with HIV. I was really impressed with their Specialty Pharmacy and that don't come easy with me. I had a wonderful conversation with Nancy Salman who is the pharmacy manager at the Walgreens Specialty Center on Randolph and State in Chicago; which is one of over 800 Walgreens specialty pharmacies around the country.  Nancy is an "HIV Specialist," and let me tell you, her knowledge matches her spirit, on point. What the heck is an "HIV Specialty Pharmacist?" Glad you asked, it’s a pharmacist who has had additional training in understanding HIV clinically as well as medications, side-effects, adherence, I mean the whole shebang.

For sure at the top of the list of managing HIV is compliance with one’s antiretroviral medication, HAART. Nancy agrees, she said, "The single most important advice for those aging with HIV is compliance and adherence."

Compliance I believe is so connected to understanding your treatment plan. That means not only taking your medication as prescribed but accessing the additional support you may need to make compliance easier. Compliance in most cases leads to viral suppression and that means a longer life span, but muddling through takes not only energy but understanding.

For example, there are non HIV medications both prescription and over the counter that interfere with the deliverance of HIV medication in your blood stream and vice-versa. Let's take my drama around being premenopausal. Yep, another issue of aging that will happen for every woman. But as an HIV infected woman it's been non-stop drama. My hot flashes have been so bad I've wanted to strip my clothes and run down the street in the dead of Chicago's winter.

As I try to get a handle on the issues around menopause, I've learned that women with HIV have more difficult menopauses. Even severe hot flashes to the point that it interferes with their daily life style and even compliance to HIV medication. Then I learned that one of the HIV medications that I take actually reduces the levels of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). SHUT UP!

While talking to Nancy I was trying to recall the name of that antiretroviral medication, which interferes with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and before I could get it out of my mouth, Nancy said, "Prezista" WOW, I really was impressed. I've spoken with OBGYN's that didn't even know that there was an issue with HIV medications and HRT or the fact that women aging with HIV entering pre-menopause needs to be assessed differently. I currently take 3 times the amount of HRT medication to balance the effect that my HIV medication has on my treatment. A more detailed blog coming soon on menopause and HIV.

For sure accessing resources is important and Walgreens pharmacy is a one stop shop. They are culturally sensitive. They have private rooms where HIV infected patients can ask the specialty pharmacist questions not only about medications, but side-effects, compliance and the list goes on.

Nancy says she helps her patients with issues such as compliance to customizing their treatment with other non-related HIV medical issues. This is important because people aging with HIV have about a 20% higher rate on co-mobility issues, such as heart, high cholesterol, diabetes and non HIV related cancers. She says that helping to customize care is important. Especially those HIV medications that cause other issues like Renal Disease.

She also helps her patients access coupons for their medication so they will not have a lapse in treatment. WIN!

For sure this one on one relationship creates a safe and confidential environment for people with HIV. These types of services are extremely important, especially when you only see your infectious disease doctor once every 3-6 months. Having someone in my case, just up the street to answer my questions is important. I know my own experience before I take any over the counter medications, I ask the pharmacist at Walgreens. Now at the Specialty Centers, the pharmacist sits out front. How cool is that to not have to ask for the pharmacist to come up front?

Nancy explained that they stay well connected with their HIV patients, especially those newly diagnosed. That's important because 35% of newly diagnosed patients stop treatment within 90 days. *I know right, I thought the same thing when I heard that stat at an HIV talk about aging with HIV.* Nancy says that they text, call and email depending on the best way to reach each patient.

I have to tell you as I hit senior citizen age, I'm learning that those aging with HIV have their own set of issues. I will be tackling this topic more and more, not only for those of us who have aged with HIV but also that younger people living with HIV will understand what's down the road and what they need to do in those early days to preserve those later days. For sure, the right resources are an important step to living well with HIV. I continue to be amazed at the growth with advancements around HIV in the 35 years since the first cases where reported by the Center for Disease Control.

My biggest advice to those greying with HIV, whether you've been infected for years like me, or a senior newly diagnosed. You cannot do this alone, tap into the resources so that you can live well beyond HIV.

I was sponsored by Walgreens to write this blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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