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

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Reflection: Saved, Single and Sex

I was invited to be a part of a Twitter Chat hosted by author Sophia Nelson last night on being saved, single and sex. She began with the simple question, "Is it possible in a world driven by sex and shaken up to NOT have sex despite being saved?'

My initial response was this, "Yes, but the issue is larger than the sex itself. We are so husband driven that we sacrifice our faith walk for the love of a man." I'll come back to this in a moment.

Now, it was a good, thought provoking and lively discussion amongst Christian women. But I have to be honest,  I'm real irritated by the, "Super Saved" women whose only answer is the Bible.  Life is too complex to just throw the Bible at people.

Knowing God's word and living God's word are two different things and they often come at different stages in one's life. That's the real world we live in and truth be told, that was the real world in the Bible. There are countless examples when the knowing and living didn't work out the way God wanted the people to.

 People are shaped by their life's journey and that journey typically informs our thinking and way of life; for the good and even for the worst. It even informs every decision we make. How we see life typically determines how we live life from the day we come from our mother's womb. This is an undeniable fact! With this in mind, people's spiritual journey is also shaped by their larger journey.

Take me for example, I have never been a drinker, druggie nor smoked cigarettes. It was easy for me because I made a decision in my life early. I knew my parents were heroin addicts for as long as I remember that I could talk. As a result, I hated drugs with a passion. I felt they had cheated me out of a real family. I never knew my father, he was killed when I was 3 and I didn't meet my mother until I was 18. I determined at a young age that drugs were BAD! My step-grandmother who raised me, the woman I call Mama, was a functional alcoholic and an avid smoker and I was turned off from both. Let me pause to say, I beat those odds, addiction runs in the family.

Ummmm, but did I really beat those odds? I over shopped for clothes, jewelry and also for someone to love me and they both were shaped by my young life. Now let me pause again to say; I accepted Christ as my Savior at age 7. I've been in the church all my life. Mama didn't go to church, but her mother did and Grandmama decided that her grand-baby wasn't going to hell like her daughter.

 While I grew up in the church and understood that fornication and over indulging were both a sin, I had a HARD time with the two. First off, I was taught from a young age to touch. It became a way of life for me, so by the time I was an adolescent,  sex was a natural thing for me. By the time I was a young woman, sex was a natural part of my relationships.

Yes, I was doing what I should, so I thought, looking for a husband to share my life with. But how can you find love, if you don't have sex?  My sexuality was ignited in me at such a young age, I knew touching before I knew God's word. There were no answers to those questions. So for me sex was a normal part of a relationship. I didn't even know what healthy was. I have NEVER heard a pastor preach about sexual abuse when there are examples of it in the Bible. Tamar, David's daughter was raped by her brother Amon and David dismissed the issue because Amon was his first born and he loved him.

How powerful would it have been for me as a young girl to be told by my pastor that sexual abuse was also a sin against God? I wonder if it would have made a difference? I wonder if I would have sought help? I didn't even know what my uncle and big brother were doing to me was wrong. I just saw it as special attention and as I got older, I could only see it as fornication. That is, until I was 29 years old.

Change of my behavior was a slow process. The older I got, I used to think something was wrong with me. Grandmama used to say, "When you get Jesus a change comes about. You get a new walk and a new talk." Someone even tweeted that to me last night. I wanted to say, "Gurlllll who you lying to, yourself?" Change takes time!

 In my twenties, I thought I was deformed or something. How could I love the Lord as much as I did, see God moving in my life and still sin? I done laid on the altar a many a day. I would pray and pray and pray to be changed but my wounds were deep and needed to heal from within.  To no avail I couldn't get that Christian living right. Even becoming infected with HIV didn't stop me from having sex.

I didn't understand that I had to learn to love myself as much as I love God and God's word. I needed to first understand that my induction into sex was not love but a total violation of my young self.  Then I had to learn what was normal, and then I had to apply the normal to my abnormal life. Change is hard and takes lots of work. And at 50 years of age, I'm still a work in progress!

Now on the other-side of this coin, you take a woman who has also been taught that her life is not validated unless she gets her a husband and you have a similar dynamics.  In the 21st century I still see it in our families, no matter what a woman accomplishes in her life,  the question is always, "Girl when you gonna get married?"

The pressure to marry is overwhelming and it starts at a young age. Recently, I saw a tweet from a young girl that I know is just going into her freshman year of high school; she tweeted a picture of her dream wedding dress. We grow up knowing that one's life is not complete without a man. That's more pressure than God's word. God's word is in a book, but those looking, watching and judging me on being a woman are in my life every day. We get measured by how soon we can catch a man. I even get measured on my ability to still get a man with AIDS. For Real...

We throw God's word at women, but we give them no tools to live God's word. And what about Christian men? Is there a double standard? I see more beating up on single Christian Women than men. It takes two to tango. Lawd knows, I've fucked the shit out of my preacher boyfriend on Saturday night and sat in church with him on Sunday morning.

 The church is part of the problem. They want women to marry but give us no tools to manage healthy dating and quoting the Bible is not enough. There are so many wounded women out there looking for someone to love them. We need to help them heal in order for them to live whole. The focus should be on healing not fornication. When we help women to heal we won't even have to tell them to close their legs. They will want the best for themselves and they will work on that best.

We put a lot of emphasis on fornication but there are other issues that women face .We have some single and saved women who over eat and over shop.  I over shopped too... But it was a neutral part of my upbringing. Mama was hell on wheels, cussed, fussed and beat the shit out of me, but she bought me new clothes every two weeks when she got paid. The more she bought, the more I asked. Clothes became the only love that my mother gave to me. It filled a void for me that carried over until adulthood. I had to tackle one issue at a time.  Prayer, positive support and therapy. I said it last week, knowing better doesn't always mean doing better. We have to work through all the things that got us to this place in the first beginning. But first we have to understand that there is a problem.  

 We help to foster dysfunctionality in women with this one track Christianity.  We need to help women work on their wholeness and when you work on their wholeness, one by one all of their lifestyle will become in sync with what God wants for us not just of us.  We need to talk to women about sex in other ways than fornication. Women need to understand the emotional toll of  being in and out of relationships that looking for Mr. Right brings. And what about the mind body connection; in time the beat up spirit manifests in physical ways. How many times can you fall in and out of love and not be damaged? With this one track discussion, women are not free to have an honest discussion about their sexuality. 

We spend more time talking about being righteous, when women really need to be whole. Wholeness leads to righteous living, not just for your soul, but for your body and spirit.  The church sometimes becomes a band-aid of God's word. We have made this a religion of rules rather than one of grace. Women end up fuckin in the dark, and in darkness, you can't see the flaws or the condoms. I prefer a Saved woman to have sex in the light than to hide in the dark. Maybe in the light she can see herself and her relationships clearer. Change can come about in the light, but the dark allows you to live a lie. There's an African Proverb I quote often that says, "He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured" That's the truth 24/24. The dark allows a sore to fester than grow. In the light you can see how deep the wound really is. 

Now, I know there are a lot of ministers whose call is  solely to save souls.  Yes winning souls to Christ is important. But my call is to help saved souls become whole. 

The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. Grace came so that we might have life and live whole. I'm not trying to be Jesus, Jr., just a child of God. If I could be Jesus Jr., then there would have been no need for His death. Jesus came that we might have life more abundantly. I think we need to help people get to that abundance.

The other fact is, all we can really do is share Salvation with others. We don't, "Save," not one person, Salvation comes from God. And whether you want to accept it or not, Salvation that comes from God is sealed. When are we going to stop trying to, "Save," Saved people over and over again and start helping them live whole?

We must help women unpack the issues that block them from being a better them. This means tools and an environment to be open and transparent, free of judgments.  I bet half of the women sitting in church on Sunday morning wouldn't dare tell you that they did that thang the night before. 

I promise you, there is more to a woman's wholeness than how many times she opens her legs. I also promise you that how many times she opens her legs is connected to her searching and or her brokenness. Let's start at her searching and her brokenness and then work our way down to the end result, her sex. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tea With Rae: Bonding Over Tea...

I simply LOVE tea and I think I enjoy sharing tea with others equally as much. That's why I blog about tea; to share this small pleasure with you. Yes, I've been off my tea blogging game this past year, but I'm coming back. I've been reaching out to new tea companies so I can have some exciting new teas to share with you.

I enjoy a cup of tea after a long day. It's such a joy to my spirit to kick back and savor the flavor and the moment, but sharing tea with others is also a special moment.

There's an intimacy that happens when you share tea; a bonding between friends. It's a great way to get to know new friends too. When you share tea, it becomes a relaxing space and you are able to block out the noise of the world and enjoy the flavor, each other and the moment.

That's exactly what I did with J. Nicole last month.  We  had so much fun laughing over tea.  Looking back over my life, you never know who you are going to touch. I tell people all the time, be careful how you treat people.

This young lady heard me speak when she was in high school over 15 years ago. That day, she came up to me with tears flowing down her face and I gave her my card and told her to reach out to me anytime. Well, she did just that. She hit me up on Twitter  over 15 years later and invited me to be her guest in a play that she's currently in at The Goodman Theatre. OMG! She was soooo good! This play Immediate Family is a must see.

I invited J. Nicole to tea at my home and it's safe to say that we bonded over Earl Grey Lavender Tea by Gschwendner Tea and homemade lemon pound cake, by me. I chose black tea because it is her favorite. However, traditional  Earl Grey has a wonderful Bergamot flavor and the lavender,  adds additional flavor. Check out an old review on Lavender Earl Grey Here.

It was a perfect match with the lemon pound cake, a little tart was perfect for the highly fragranced black tea. When serving, don't be afraid to mix up your tea cups and tea pot.  There's no need to be matchy-matchy and it adds character. This yellow tea pot is a 1960s Collector's from my Hall's Tea Pot Collection and the heart shaped tea cup is modern and was purchased from Nordstorm's a couple of years back.

Bonding over tea can happen in your home or you can fancy it up with a formal tea. A couple of weeks ago my bestie, Markeeda and I went to tea at the Peninsula Hotel. Hands down, the Peninsula serves one of the best afternoon teas that I have ever had. And OMG they serve high tea on Wedgewood China. One day I hope I could afford a Wedgewood Tea Set.

Anyhoo, you have well over 20 teas to choose from and they are all divine. I had an Orchid Oolong Tea and Markeeda had a Jasmine Mist Green Tea.

It's interesting how the Tea Time dining room is typically full, but somehow it feels like it's just you and your friend (s). I've had that feeling with one person and with 15 having tea at the Peninsula.

Their tea is typically traditional, with fancy sandwiches, desserts and scones. But these scones are some of the best I have ever had. You also receive, butter, jam and lemon curd on the side. The service is impeccable and I always ask for lemon curd to take home. The experience of High Tea should be on everyone's bucket list.

Something happens over tea; whether it's in your home or a wonderful Afternoon Tea. The tea offers a calm that transcends into the space that you are sharing. Invite a friend over. It doesn't have to be so fancy. Just put the tea kettle on, grab a mug have some tea and cookies and just see the magic.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Around Town: Newberry Book Fair!

Around Town! I'm delighted to begin my Around Town series with something I totally enjoy, books! FYI: This series will not be limited to Chicago, just to the places I visit across the country, including Chi Town. So when I'm on the road, you can count on me to tell you about something I deem noteworthy.

Books are an absolute pleasure for me and the Newberry Book Fair is a delight! The Newberry Library is a landmark, centered in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. Founded in 1887 this historic site is beautiful. The chandeliers and marble floors are a sight to be seen. Newberry is an independent research library and a great resource for rare collections. They also have all kinds of seminars and the meeting rooms are great!

This library is wonderful and the book fair is nothing short of amazing. There are six rooms of nothing but books. This was my second year attending and it was not a disappointment. This yearly event has hundreds of books from fifty cents to five dollars. I spent 3 hours, for Real, 3 hours looking at books. It's a book lover's dream come true. 

The funds go to support this historic library and you can even make an extra donation at check-out. They take cash and credit. It's the most organized book fair that I have ever visited. The categories are endless; mystery, history, civil war, fiction, classic, literate, sports, religion and on and on.

The volunteers are friendly and helpful and I can't really think of one bad thing to say about this yearly event. Chicago, it is one more day, and on tomorrow the books are half price. For Real, half price off a buck, you can't beat that one bit. The Newberry Library is located 60 West Walton Street, parking is tight so take public transpiration. It's just a few blocks north of the Chicago Ave Red Line stop. My bestie Markeeda treated me to the book fair, so I was on a book budget; but in the end, I got 23 books for $50.00... Here's my stack! Yes I plan to read them all!

My Stack!

Post Script: RLT Reads Book club went to hell in a hand basket. I got sick and y'all disappered. September we are coming back, if I'm reading the books and reviewing them with Sophie... No But Real For... I miss you!! Please Email me at rltreads@raelewisthornton.com and let me know that you still want to be a part... You can also Tweet or Facebook message your email address to me... 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Obligated To Live!

Can't y'all always tell when something is going on with me? I wear my life drama like designer clothes, it's written all over my body and noticeable at first glance. I can't play poker if my life depended on it.

Not one blog all week long, yep that is a tell-tale for me. Week before last I was cooking with grease. I think I whipped out 5 blogs that week. Then by the end of the week my schedule got crazy and it was hard balancing it all. It's one of my limitations with AIDS; back to back running is not good for my health. If I'm not able to have a day off  with nothing in between a day of a lot, my body literally starts to shut down. That's one of the things I hate hate hate hate about having AIDS.

Book Club!
So I had a full week last week. I was blogging my tail off, filling bracelet and book orders and working on a new anti-stigma campaign I plan to launch in August.  Then on last Friday I went to a book club discussion at my friend Chef Wilbert Jones home, that was photographed by Cuisine Noir magazine. We reviewed E. Lynn Harris book, In my Fathers House and we talked about what E Lynn meant to us. Well it was fun, the hospitality was wonderful and it lasted well into the evening.

By the way, RLT Reads Book Club has gone to hell in a hand basket. For Real... For Real... We are coming back in September, if I'm reading and reviewing by myself. Tweet, Facebook or email me your email address if you still want to be a part or if you want to join..

Ok so then Saturday I went to a wonderful bloggers conference sponsored by Chicagonista... OMG! I learned so much new stuff at BB Summit 12. I was so inspired.  I'm trying to make this blog better for you! The closing speaker Andrea Metcalf blew me away. This blog and my brand is GROWING just watch! I'm doing the hard work in 2012! I can see God moving in my life and work! God helps those who helps themselves... Oprah says, "Luck is when opportunity meets preparation!"

Heart and Soul Photo Shoot!
Back to the drama, Saturday was a long day and I didn't get home until 9:30 a 13 hour day is bad for anyone, but for me, it's short of a kiss of death. Sunday morning I felt like I got hit by a Mack truck, but I had to keep pressing. I started cleaning my house and I went shopping to find a top to wear for a photo shoot for Heath and Soul magazine

Then Monday morning I got up, finished cleaning my house and had that 5 hour photo shoot. I was up again until 12 midnight trying to get my promo cards ready to take to Blog Her conference next week.

BTW-THANK YOU to everyone that donated to help me attend Blog Her bloggers conference.  I could not have gone without the donations. It's the largest in the country! I'm excited about going. I'm GROWING! And When I Grow, YOU Grow!

Honestly, I'm still accepting donations. If you love and appreciate. the Diva Living With AIDS Blog either buy a book, a bracelet or make a donation on the donate button on this blog. Click Here for bracelet website and take an extra 10% off... The Coupon Code is Diva. The extra off will last through the Summer. It ends September 8th.

Anyhoo, Tuesday I attempted work in spite of my body SCREAMING.... "Get the fuck in bed!!!" I mean bracelet and book orders do have to be shipped, so I pressed my way. So by Wednesday my body shut down. I shut down and didn't leave the bed other than to eat and use the bathroom. Didn't do any work either.

 Thursday I was still off my game, for real y'all, but I forced myself to get up and go to my dental appointment. It was hard. For Real, I even got a wake up text and still fell back to sleep.

But I finally crawled out of bed and made it. People living with HIV have more gum disease and I hadn't had my teeth cleaned in two years. It was a vicious cycle. I'll get an appointment months ahead and at the time of, I'd be on IV medication and too sick to make it. Then it would take another 4 months to get a new appointment and then I'll get sick again. I get my dental care at the AIDS clinic and I was determined yesterday not to miss. Self care is important and I had to take care of my mouth. We never think about our mouth in terms of health, but it is. That was made clear yesterday. I had way too much plaque.

Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelet!
So here I am on Friday feeling bad because I didn't say a damn thing to y'all all week long. But honestly I was trying to find a balance for myself. Honestly, I got nervous. When I have too many bad days like this, I never know if I'm headed down the road of an infection or not.

The body shut down could be a couple of things. At best, my body is just tired from the running. With a bad immune system my ability to do normal has become subnormal. I just press my way when I have to and when I don't I give into the extreme fatigue and rest. Or at worst, I could be headed for some infection that's just taking a minute or two to show up.

That's a fear that I live with daily. And since herpes started attacking my body, especially my nervous system I'm never sure if I'm headed down that path again.

It's a crazy way to live your life; But I try my best to be my best! I can't change nothing about AIDS! It's here to stay but I try hard to not surrender to the madness that takes over my body because of a compromised immune system, but sometimes it is what it is.

Chaka Beat The Heck Out of My Face!
I'm grateful for life and I try my best to LIVE in it! To whom much is given much is expected. This is why I press my way, and do as much as I can... Even when I feel like I can't I sometimes do...

 I never want AIDS to take all of my life... I'm alive, and I feel like I'm obligated to live in it! I do my best with what's before, but sometimes something has to give and the blog was the sacrifice this week.

Well, it's been a long week of push and pull but here we are again at another #FuckinFriday and alive! Use a fuckin condom, before you fuck up your life fuckin.

My bottom line, I take what I can get! Life is better than death because I know that I'm still a part of God's earthly plan and so are you! Now make the best out of what's before you!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

RLT Event: Meet, Greet, Tweet and Book Signing!

Here I go again! It's been over a year since my last HIV/AIDS Tweet-up! I thought that it was long overdue!

To date I've had 4 Tweet-Up's/Meet-Up's and they have all had their own personality and  have all been a blast!

My Events are a time to come together, meet, tweet and have fun, while at the same time, publicly supporting the issues around HIV/AIDS. We will Tweet and Facebook HIV/AIDS education throughout the night.

The coming together makes a statement. Just your presence challenges the stigma and shame that leaves people with HIV living in secret and shame. At RLT Events your presence alone is a STAND!

So here are the details! This will be a Meet, Greet, Tweet and Book Signing on August 25, 2012 from 6:00-8:30 at Donna's Cafe 1255 S. State Street, in Chicago, Illinois. It is FREE! However, I do want you to RSVP! HERE

I love the fact that local businesses have continually shown support for my work around HIV/AIDS. Remember the Heart to Heart Tweet Up at Kilwins? Well this one will be more of the same. Donna's Cafe is also a Black/Female owned business just like Kilwins.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that Black women are supporting me in this fight. I will be telling you more about Ms. Donna in the weeks ahead. I'm honored that Donna is hosting this Event! It also gives you a chance to meet a local business owner! Follow Donna on Twitter!

I'm sooooo excited! I have so much in the works. This night I will also launch my Global Anti-Stigma Campaign; I Stand With RLT-Against Stigma and Shame Around HIV/AIDS! More details on this exciting campaign coming soon! Stay Tuned.

In the mean time, mark your calendar for August 25th! Come hang out with me for the evening, get your autographed copy of my new book The Politics of Respectability and Tweet about HIV/AIDS!

Yes, there will be Raffles, Light Refreshments and ummmm I'm working on a Swag Bag too!  Keep Your Fingers Crossed RSVP HERE!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stuck On Stupid!

HIV is Preventable!!! So why won't we use condoms to prevent it? Why are we stuck on stupid? I just don't get this. I was infected with HIV in an era where they were telling heterosexual  women that they couldn't get HIV. It was viewed as a gay male, IV drug user disease. But in the 21st century there shouldn't be a drop of confusion. Like For Real!!

So what is it? What is the barrier to using a barrier? Is it we don't like how the sex feels? Is the feel worth the risk? Do we trust our partner that much? Do you think it will never happen to you? Do you think if you ask your partner to use a condom they will think you are cheating, or think you think they are cheating? What is the deal?

I remember a young man, 18 years old reached out to me after he was diagnosed with HIV. He had heard me speak a year earlier. I had to ask, "What the hell were you thinking?" He said to me, "I trusted him." I'm sick of this, just plain sick of it! Trust what you know for sure!!!

Y'all kill me with this, talking all big and bad like you think you know your partner. You know what they tell you and what you see. Beyond that you don't know a damn thing.  I have blogged and blogged and blogged about my life. Telling you things that no one in their right mind would admit publicly just so you can get it and you still don't get it.

I done told you about men who cheated on me with other women. I done told you about married men texting me about hooking up and yes I told you recently that I fell in love with a married man. We lived together and  back then you couldn't pay me to believe that he wouldn't be here today. I thought that shit was forever. The love was, but our life together was just too complicated.

Stop banking on what you think you know.  Life is crazy and complicated. Nothing is a sure thing, not even tomorrow. It's some stupid shit to put your life in the hands of what you think, when you can place it in the comfort of certain. And don't go super crazy on me and say condoms aren't safe.

The fact of the matter, a latex condom used 100% of the time correctly prevents the spread of HIV and they rarely break. For as long as I've been having sex, I've had one condom break and that's because we were ummmm screwing on top of the ceiling so to speak. :)

Come on Yall!! Get UnStuck!! Nothing in life is for certain. I say often, I pray that what you THINK you know about your partner is true. I know for a fact, from both sides of the coin; when the penis ain't in your pocket, you have NO idea what it's doing.

What will it take for you to move beyond stupid? What will it take for you to stop looking at my life from the lens of interesting, but with no application to your own life?  Let me be clear, if I were in your shoes, not infected with HIV, a man couldn't look at my vagina without a condom.

And let me be extra clear, I'm not trying to be re-infected with HIV; a different strain that will take my ass out of here faster. Nor am I trying to get any other STD's, I have enough. So a man still can't look at my vagina without a condom.

If he doesn't want to put a condom on, then you put it on. Female condoms work too. But this is my bottom line. If he ain't willing to use a condom, then he might not be the person with your best interest at heart. There is NO sex worth your life. I need you to get this. I mean really get this!! Stop playing with your life!

Proud of Me!

A good friend called me the other day and said that when he received my book in the mail that he just opened to front page to take a glance, but then once he started reading, he couldn't put it down until he had finished. "Good Lawddd," he said to me, "It was so good. Girl I couldn't put it down." That made my freaking day! It's great when someone you have known for over 25 years thinks that you did that thang! He said he was proud of me! That made me feel so good.

The reviews have been coming in steady. Every other day I get a post on Facebook telling me that my book was great, this was one I had waiting on me when I woke up this morning.

Here's one from Facebook

I just finished your book tonight. It's taken me a while to get through it because life has gotten in the way, but it was worth that time and more. I think that my friends are tired of hearing me talk about it, especially the chapters about what women (people) will do to keep a man (partner) because so many of us have been there, and still put ourselves there. It has opened up so much conversation. I sincerely hope that you get to publish your memoir soon, because I would love to buy a copy for the AIDS project that I volunteer at. THANK YOU for being HONEST, straightforward, and an inspiration across the boundaries of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. There is not a single person in this country that couldn't learn something from you

My long time friend Keith is proud of me and I'm proud of me. I didn't think I had it in me, but I did! I know now that I can rewrite my memoir and I plan to do just that. Just watch me; early 2013 release!

But in the meantime, The Politics of Respectability is a great read. I focus on this idea of respectability among black women, how it developed in the late 19th century and its influence on our lives and organizations, and ultimately its impact on me from childhood to now. I answer the questions, what kind of woman and I? Am I Christian Enough? Respectable Enough? I tackle head on the Politics  around Respectability.

I'm grateful to everyone that has supported me and purchased the book. I sold the first shipment of 50 in one week and the second shipment has arrived. I'm still ordering 50 at a time from the printers, because that's all my budget will permit. I'm hoping that I'm able to sell at least 5000 copies this year, that's just 4 months. I need your support to make this happen! #IcannotdoitAlone There are three ways you can purchase my book.

Here's How To Order

1) For an autographed copy, you can order from me on my website. There is a link on both the blog and the bracelet website Click Here!

2) You want to read it, but you want anonymity that's cool! You can order from Amazon Create Space Click Here. It's also on regular Amazon, but I make more money if you purchase from Amazon Create Space Site.  

3) You can also get it on Amazon Kindle Click Here

Honestly, I don't care where you purchase it, just do it! Support me....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Truvada: A Victory For Sure... But....

The world is talking about the FDA's approval of Gilead's antiretroviral drug Truvada as a prevention medication against HIV. It is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

Just a week before the International AIDS Conference opens  in Washington, DC AIDS organizations across the US is hailing this as a win in the fight against the spread of HIV. Even the AIDS Foundations of Chicago established a program over a year ago in support of PrEp called Mapping Pathways and also launched a website of videos and written PrEp testimonials My PrEp Experience.

So why am I luke warm? I just hate that I can't ever be a team player. That fact has kept me locked out of sponsorships for sure as well as, big invites to important AIDS events, but I have to call them as I see them. I just don't know how to be any other way. Now be clear I'm not cold, I'm just luke warm. Let me explain.

For sure Truvada is a wonderful medication. Gilead did that thang! As a one pill a day treatment for a-symptomatic persons with HIV it's a miracle pill. It works extremely well in slowing down disease progression and the fact that it's a once a day pill, makes compliance a piece of cake. Over the years the more pills that people with HIV have to take, the more difficult it has been to maintain that regime.

So this is the deal with Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis. Studies in the US show, taken once a day along with condoms and counseling among gay, bisexual and transgender reduces transmission by 42% over counseling and condoms alone. The gay community has long urged approval of Truvada as a way to help reduce this important health issue in the gay community. Click Here

Studies are inconclusive among women and the heterosexual community for the use of Truvada as an HIV prophylaxis. Here's the FDA News Brief.

Don't get me wrong, I think there is some value in Truvada PrEp. I don't want the gay community to say I'm gay bashing. If they think it's one good route of many to prevention in their community then great. But there are a lot of unanswered questions and yes Gilead is trying to put in the necessary follow-up but the fact still remains that there is still a 58% chance that a person will become infected for not complying while taking Truvada.

Given this fact, we have to consider, drug resistance that occurs in newly infected persons while on Truvada and what that does to increase drug resistant HIV. I believe drug resistant HIV is your worst fate, because it limits what will help your strain of HIV.

Then there is the issue that no one really talks about. The long term impact of taking these toxic drugs. Understand something, persons will be taking this toxic medication daily. My doctor who has been treating  and doing research on women and HIV since the early days have had conversations with me, about the lack of knowledge of what these medications have done to the body for old timers like me and I've been taking HIV medication for over 20 years. We wonder if all the GI issues I'm having now are somehow related to long term use of those medications. No one has really studied the long term use and with approval of HIV medications at a faster rate than other medications, only time will tell.  It really does become a watch and see.

Also, does PrEp give people a blank check to have sex without a condom? We have to be honest about past behaviors in the gay community that led to the spread of HIV in the early 80's and 90's. Even in the 21st century with everything we know and understand about HIV, there has been a sub-culture in the gay community where bareback parties have flourished. Still today men who have sex with men are the largest group of new infections in the US. Ironically this is the same argument for the approval of Truvada.  So it's a two edged sword.

 If condom studies consistently show when used correctly it will prevent the spread of HIV, then why isn't that the focus? The fact of the matter is people don't use them. Will this be a ticket to never use them? Will it make it easier to rationalize not using them?

And what then do we do about other sexually transmitted diseases such as HPV and Hepatitis which has also been an issue among men who have sex with men. We will see a spike in these STD's without condom use. If we don't change the mind set, how are we going to change behavior?

I know in my own life, I've had men willing to have sex with me without a condom because they know the transmission is lower female to male. And now with the recent advancements of treatment i.e., it's a 2% chance that I will infect someone if I'm on my medication and my viral load is non-detectable, it  has helped to foster the mentality that condom use is not necessary . The fact of the matter is, shit happens. The question is how much shit will happen on our watch? My policy, no condom, no sex.

While I see value in Truvada PrEp, especially among sex workers, and women in developing countries, there are too many unanswered questions for general use.

Another thing, do we provide HIV medication to HIV negative persons when those who are living with the disease don't have access?  At a price tag of $1000 a month ,who then has access? Will poor black gay men have the same access? Does this become a prevention method for the wealthy? There are a lot of moral questions involved in this topic for sure.

 I get it, the AIDS community, especially those on the front lines in the gay community want to decrease new infections by any means necessary, but sometimes, any means comes back to bite us in the ass. There are consequences for everything we do in life. I cannot image that Truvada used as PrEp won't have them. The question is the weight and which way the scale leans in the end. Would the damage done be worth the damage prevented?

I don't have the answers, but I'm not confused, these questions must be asked. I have too many people Tweeting me daily about these issues. God forbid that they misunderstand one of these articles praising PrEp. We have a hard time already trying to convince people that people like me and Magic Johnson with HIV that look healthy with a non detectable viral load still have HIV.

There is NO cure, only treatment. The best prevention is NO sex and No sharing of needles but in this world these will never be a real solution. Our next best is condom use and needle exchange programs. If we can give intensive education on Truvada and the importance of compliance, then why isn't this the same for condom use?

I wonder, if those on Truvada in the study who complied were going to comply anyway, i.e., use a condom whether with Truvada or without?  So then does Truvada become a back up for shit happens, just in case the condom breaks? Does Truvada become your back up to fuck when and where and with who you chose? If so, then we are only going back from where we came, just a different  route.

Grandmama use to say, "Ain't a damn thing free. In the end we pay for everything we get." There is no quick fix to HIV prevention. The best case is to go get tested, know your HIV status, know your partners HIV status and use a fucking condom.

I am neither a doctor nor a scientist, and I know some could probably take me to task on my position.  I also know my opinion will not be popular. But I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a maverick. Truvada  is NOT a quick fix, it is only one more thing to add to the prevention strategy, but be clear, this will not come without its own set of problems. I may be dead and gone when the ramifications are made clear. It will take time. Just like it took HIV to spread, but when it did it was like wildflowers.

Petty Is As Petty Does....

I was lying in bed at 6:00 A. M. this morning and God gave me the biggest aha moment and I got straight up, showered, put the tea kettle on and started writing. Since May 1st when my membership was rescinded from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority I have for the most part not really addressed publicly some of the petty shit that I have faced. This is the first blog that I have written about it beyond the Day 23 video which as of today, has received 55,000 views. That video expressed my pure hurt. I had people calling me from around the country who I hadn't spoken to in years who called to see if I was ok. They said, "We hated to see you that hurt."

Now be clear, I do address the matter in my book The Politics of Respectability in detail, but the book is not about Delta per se. It's about my life and how the issues of what black women have historically seen as respectable and how that has collided with my life from childhood to Delta.  Even when I was promoting the book on my blog, someone said that it sounded like I was doing it at Delta's expense. It is what it is, if I can take ownership for my tweets and the consequences there of, then Delta can take ownership of their decision to rescind my membership. Bullshit ain't nothing!

So I've been unusually silent, I think in part because there has been a large number of Sorors, who have reached out to me. Yes, I said Soror, because those who are willing to reach out to a sister who is hurting deserve to be called Soror. At the end of the day, concern for the sister is the true essence of sisterhood. I understand that I am no longer a member of Delta, but I also know that I will never stop viewing those who have been sisters to me as a sister.

I don't want to alienate anyone. However, at the end of the day, I have to be true to myself. I'm even prepared for the backlash of this blog, but at least I can look at myself in the mirror. I'm not trying to hold shit in and let it eat me from within.

Some of the things women have said to and about me have been hurtful and deep. I've noticed that some stopped following me on Twitter, some stopped tweeting me, some stopped calling me Soror in their tweets, and that's fair, I mean technically I am no longer a member of Delta Sigma Theta and some who I thought as a friend, have stopped tweeting me altogether, but continued to follow me on twitter, I guess they didn't want to seem that petty.

A couple of weeks ago, I was up at 2:00 am, not feeling well and started tweeting. I saw a young lady on Twitter who I knew before she pledged Delta and I said to her, "I've noticed that you don't tweet me anymore, and I understand. It's all good." She used that opportunity to set me straight. Now be clear. This young lady is an AIDS Activist. She is not infected, but has been passionate about the issue. Through an AIDS organization on her college campus, she brought me to speak and we maintained a relationship thereafter.

 I've always been there to encourage her. Even when she was pledging, and on the verge of giving up, I was there to encourage her to stick it out. When she crossed, I packed a box for her that has been sitting at my door, and still is sitting at my door because I just never got around to mailing it. I can be sorry that way sometimes. Great heart, but follow-through gets bogged down with life.

 So she set me straight and damn did she get me straight! Basically she said to me, that as an honorary member, I have an obligation to behave a certain way. But ummm, who I am didn't change because I became a member of Delta. Delta invited me into the sorority because of who I am. Be clear on THAT point! I was the outspoken, cussing, shit talkin Emmy award winning black woman that I am TODAY, that I was 12 years ago when I was invited into Delta. I was invited into Delta Sigma Theta because of my achievements, because I represent the fortitude that is exhibited in this picture to the left. THAT NEVER CHANGED! NEVER! It was good enough for Delta 12 years ago, that is another fact. But 12 years ago, AIDS was on the incoming President's agenda, and so well maybe I was tolerated to help move the agenda forward. Who knows for sure, but it certainly looks that way from my lens. But what I know for sure, someone within the sorority made me a project for 14 months.

Those tweets happened February 16, 2011. That night I spoke with the National President for over an hour. I asked point blank, "Soror, am I being put out of Delta over this?"  I felt like I was being "Dealt" with that night and I wanted to know what to expect. She said, "No Soror, no one's putting you out of Delta. I'm going to ask that you don't talk about the incident anymore publicly or tweet about it." I kept my word, and at no time in 14 months did ANYONE from the organization call to say that the tweets were being discussed. Where the hell was sisterhood in that process?  The day I received the call and was told that my membership was  rescinded was the same day it was effective. DAMN! I had NO time to process any of this. It was like, thank you for your 12 years of service, but we don't want you anymore.

I'm a BIG girl. I accept the fact that I made those tweets and I STAND by those tweets. The national Executive Director was talking to me like I was a Bitch on the Street. Bottom line!!! And I would tweet it again! I tweeted MY truth and if how I did it was the reason my membership was rescinded then I accept it like the WOMAN that I am.

But don't come to me and say I made Delta look bad by making that video. Actually she said I made, "Delta look petty." Well, like another Soror said to her, "Our leadership is very qualified to address this matter publicly; they have chosen not to respond." The truth of the matter is, they haven't even sent me an "official" letter. I wonder what it would say anyway, their truth? Their truth is what it is, you can't get around it. They rescinded my membership because of the tweets. That was from the mouth of the National President to my ears. Someone even told me I was slandering Delta. Can't slander the truth. It is what it is.

Now be clear, I haven't received an official letter, but my name has been taken off the national website, they also sent out  at least one email directing members of Delta to not talk about it publicly.

 At the end of the day, I didn't reveal any secrets, I took the pictures down within 2 hours and honestly our robes are worn in public anyway, so there was NO need for the Executive Director to speak to me in the manner in which she did. I told her I would take them down as soon as I could. I had just gotten off of a plane to go speak. If it had been Nancy Wilson or Sheryl Lee Ralph, she would have said thank you Soror, just let me know when they are down. I believe that with all my heart.

And yes I did tweet, "Don't  No One Else DM me about what's appropriate or not appropriate for me to Tweet about Delta. I do what the fuck I want to. I'm a grown ass woman and ain't nobody paying my bills.  Where were you last wk when I was sick with $10.37 in the bank?" And I stand by that too. My point was this, if you want to show me sisterly concern then do it across the board, when I'm sick, not just when Delta is specifically involved. This is real talk here. Are we more concerned with the image of the sisterhood, than the sister? It certainly looked like that to me on that day. I also tweeted that day, "Sisterhood shouldn't hurt." Only one Delta responded to that. All the other tweets and DM's were about me talking about Delta's business in public.

My point is this, if I can be a woman and take ownership for my actions, then Delta has to do the same. Don't make me the bad guy in this. It takes two to tango. And what does Delta have to say? There is only one thing they can say at the end of the day. That they  rescinded my membership because my public behavior was unacceptable to the leadership? That I addressed publicly, what should have been addressed privately?

If this is the reason my membership was rescinded then don't be ashamed to say it. If it looks petty, then petty is as petty does.  If all of my service to the black community and accomplishments around HIV/AIDS was discarded over my tweets, then that speaks for itself. And yes it does make people wonder about our black Greek organizations. We wonder why people call our organizations cults. We help to create an atmosphere where these ideals grow.

If decorum is more or equally as important as service then say it. If I don't meet the standards then say it, but don't say I have no right to tell my truths.

By the same token, my tweets and my blogs make people question  what "type" of woman I am. Am I respectable enough, woman, enough, Christian enough? I tackle those questions every day. I don't run from it. I address these questions to help people unpack the core of who I am and what makes me tick.

I don't have to, but I want to for people to understand that we box God into our small minds. God can and does use the least expected to do the most. David didn't have any amour, just five rocks and a sling shot. That's me, nothing fancy, just raw truth.

I address these issues in my book. I'm unapologetically provocative. It is my gift and the essence of who I am and what I do and I will not be shamed into change.  Someone tweeted me about a month ago, "Do you always have to say what's on your mind? That's what got you kicked out of Delta." Like haven't I learned my lesson?

 Yep, I learned a long time ago that silence can break your spirit. I talk about that in my book too. So if my need to purge that incident that day, the way I purged, via my tweets, cost me my membership in Delta, then so be it, but ownership is ownership. I can't make anyone look bad, our actions make us look bad based on what is defined as bad by a person or society.

I hear it all day in my own life. I've had women tell me that my candor, honesty and transparency repulse them and I tackle it head on. If they don't like what I have to say, or how I say it, then they have the right to unfollow me or not read my blog. Just like Delta had the RIGHT to rescind my membership.

I will never blame someone for my doing, my shit. This is my history. I was invited into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority on my lifetime work, "To help improve the human condition." That same membership was rescinded because I broke decorum, not because my work stopped; but because I tweeted sorority business publicly and I did it in a manner deemed, "Vulgar." I take ownership, but don't tell me I have no RIGHT to recount my history because your history intercepts with mine. Don't tell me I made Delta look petty. It is what it is.

Don't tell me I'm speaking against the Shield, when I'm speaking the truth of the Shield. If this is the honor of the shield and I dishonored that in some way then kick my ass out, but don't make it or me something that it's not. If you throw hate at me for the truth that you say you live by and love, then how does it make you look? Then what kind of lie are you living in?

You can't have it both ways. You can't say I don't deserve to be a Delta because I dishonored the Shield with my tweets, then turn around and tell me I'm wrong for telling. The fact that it was done behind my back was cold blooded enough but to turn around and tell me that I can't talk about it because it makes you look bad is some straight madness.

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