But as the world was buzzing all around me, I was dying from shame, stigma and the secret of my own HIV status. By then I had known my HIV status for 6 years, but had been infected for 8 years.
I was taking AZT but it was failing miserably. Around the same time as Magic's announcement, I received a letter from the National institute of Health, (NIH) where I was in a HIV study, to inform me that my T-cell count had dropped to 124 and I should consider going on new medication.
Any who, I was living in shame and to afraid to disclose, even to seek the help I needed. Jesse Jr. and Jonathan didn't even know that I was HIV positive. To date I had only told 5 people and I was keeping the list as short as possible. I even took the labels off my medication and flushed them down the toilet before I threw the used bottle away. I did any and everything too keep my secret. I didn't know about any new treatments for HIV because I was to afraid to read literature for fear that someone would see me reading it and assume that I had HIV.
So as Magic had disclosed to the world, I was living in the shame of my disease and it was killing me quicker than the disease. My secret had taken on a life of it's on.
Magic was all the talk, everywhere, but especially in the African-American community. The television tried to keep it politically correct; And people who were interviewed definitely showed compassion for Magic, but the whispers that took place in homes, barber shops and beauty shops was no joke.
Prior to then, people just said he was a "dog" and Cookie was a fool for hanging on to him, wasting her pretty. They were sure he would never marry her. I'm just being honest. This is what was really said during this period. Now people were saying that Cookie was just a front. It went something like this, "Don't no man just up and marry a woman after 7 years for no good reason. She must be in on it. I wonder how much he paid her." For Real! This was the Real Talk!
So while we talked a good game in the watchful, public sphere, in the private sphere, Magic was getting his ass kicked.
It was the real talk that scared the hell out of me. If they would say the things they said about Magic, a well loved athlete, what would they say about me? Yep, the real talk hit the very core of my being and the stigma of HIV begin to fester in my heart like an open sore that wouldn't heal.
I sat on the side of my bed and listened, my heart beating like an African drum calling for freedom. I was staring death in the face and I had to do something or die. She didn't mix her words, "If you don't get into treatment, it will have grave consequences Rae."
I sat there for hours, thinking it through. I needed help, but I wasn't sure who to tell or who I could trust. I wanted to go to Mrs. Jackson, who had become like a mother to me, I knew she had access to resources, but I couldn't risk the disappointment that I thought she would have in me. That was to great of a risk. I would discover later that I was just being foolish, she loved me no matter what; But at the time, it was not a risk I was willing to take.
That next morning I waited for Ron to drop by the office. I didn't give him much chance to settle in. I pulled him to the side, "Ron I need to speak with you."
My heart dropped, just having to say it. "I HAVE HIV." I hadn't told soul in over 2 years, now I had to say it, "I HAVE HIV!"
Then typical of me, I started to ramble. "I'm in a study at NIH and they said I need new medication and we've been trying to buy me insurance and no one will insure me, I need help where can I go. I'm scared."
Ron stood there frozen....
To Be Continued.....