I was every young black woman who thought that she was doing everything right in her dating life. Despite of the fact that I had grown up in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive household, I had managed to escape, drugs and alcohol. I had gone to college. I had a professional career.
I had done everything I thought to do as a young woman living in the 80's. I never had a one night. I never had sex on the first date, but I was in search of the right man to live my fairy tail life, for the rest of my life. You know, a career, a husband, a house and 2.5 kids, that's two kids and a dog. With dating came sex. There were very few virgins in the 80's. This was the era of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing and Diana Ross, "Love Hangover." Sexually Transmitted diseases were not on the radar. The first cases of AIDS were primarily white, gay and male. Even as late as 1987 Cosmopolitan magazine told women if they only had "heterosexual sex," they could not get HIV. For the most part, the rule for young women of my generation was to not get pregnant out of wedlock and embarrass your mother. We saw "protection" as birth control pills.
Then came me and the Essence cover story. I had only been speaking for about six months when Susan Taylor asked me to be on the cover and tell my story. At the time, I had been infected with HIV since 1983, but I didn't learn about my status until I donated blood December 1986.
So when I appeared on the cover of Essence, I had actually known my HIV status for 7 years. But for the most part I had basically kept my status a secret. Other than the men I dated, those first seven years I only told 5 people. When I made a transition to AIDS in 1992, I started to disclose to my friends. Then on a fluke, about a year later or should I say in God's purpose and plan, I started speaking locally in Chicago high schools. Then I met Susan. It all happened so quickly. I had no idea the impact my story would have on the lives of others or on me; or that it would place me in the national arena and change my life forever.
There were other controversies around the cover story. Many AIDS Activist were angry with me because of the title., "Im Young, I'm Young free, I'm Dying of AIDS." Declaring that I was dying on the cover of a national magazine they said, made HIV/AIDS dark and hopeless. But honestly, AIDS was that dark back then and to give some pep talk contrary to the current situation would have been a lie. I was proud and not deterred by criticism.
I am equally thankful that I lived to see the 20th anniversary of this cover story. I thank God for my doctor who never gave up on me when medications barley kept you alive. She was always looking for next; And no matter how complicated the next treatment was or how sick it made me I did it.
I am also grateful for the continued relationship with Essence magazine. You can check out the 20th anniversary feature story on me in the December 2014 issue. You can also watch my video interview with Essence HERE
If you missed the December issue featuring me at the newsstands, you can read it HERE