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, 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.

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