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

Friday, June 3, 2016

I Met A Man... Can I Give Him HIV?

I met a man and OMG he was just simply charming. Now I usually don't give my number to random men on the street, but did I say he was sooooo charming?!

Even Chloe liked him, but ummm now that I think about it, Chloe likes everyone she sees. But the fact that he took the time while macking to bend down and speak to my baby girl was a brownie point. But umm that could have been a part of the Mack game to. LOL But unmm I still gave him my number. Did I say how charming he was?

We made it through the first round of "gettin to know" each other. And I'm not sure if we are even going on a date. I try not to make assumptions because that's when feelings get hurt. Now don't get me wrong, I have standards like mutual respect etc. etc. etc. What I'm talking about is not marrying him in your head before you know if he puts the toilet sit down, look at you like you're the only woman in the room and most importantly not some misogyntic butt hole. Like for real for real. But now that I think about it, charming men tend to love women, all of them. What have I gotten myself into? But then again, I try not to make assumptions even about charming men.

 So here I am, I've given my number to a very charming man and we have gotten beyond at least the introduction. Now I have to be honest, this created some anxiety  that I haven't felt in years; Mainly, I got to tell this man that I have HIV but on top of HIV that I'm this super famous woman who goes around the country talking about having HIV. This is not an easy thing. 

It's been years since a man approached me that didn't already know who I was and this sent me back to a place that I haven't been in years. Since my divorce well over 17 years ago, I've learned that being famous with HIV is collateral damage. Even when a man likes you, they are faced with the stigma that comes with dating a person with HIV. And don't be in denial, it does come. Why would he date her? Does he have HIV also? Will she give him HIV? And the list goes on and on. 

Prior to the cover of Essence, there was no need to tell a man that I had HIV until we had been on a few dates and I've made sure he wasn't crazy crazy. It was always about, do I think this man is worth my energy, worth me and once I reached that point, I would have the "kitchen conversation" sitting at the table with my clothes on explaining that I am HIV positive; answering all of his questions and explaining the ramifications of what dating a positive woman means for him. But back then it was a mutual secret. Remember, those first 7 years I told like 5 people that I was positive, other than the men I dated.

So the "kitchen conversation" is important. I've always believed that a person should be informed so that they can make what they feel is the best decision for their life. Everyone has that right, even the right to not date a person who is living with HIV. That goes for whatever the reason, stigma, risk and even I don't want to be bothered with dating a person with a chronic Illness. 

But today the "kitchen conversation happens a lot earlier for me.  I almost have to have the, "I am a public figure" conversation. Now what if I don't tell him right away, and we bump into someone who recognizes me? People come up to me often in public, and what if THAT PERSON who says. "Ain't you that lady with AIDS" bumps into us having dinner. And once I tell him my last name and he googles me or send me friend request me on Facebook, it's a wrap. Like, being this public person flows into every area of my life. So much pressure being "THAT GIRL." Now for sure, I wouldn't change a thing. God has given me a gift and I would rather use my gift  and be single for the rest of my life if that be the case.

Now again, I have no idea if this is going anywhere. Shoot, I'm writing this blog and may never talk to him again. But this situation got me to thinking about  being infected and dating with HIV in 2016. 

 Its crazy that the risk of infecting a person is so very very low today, unlike it was let's say even 17 years ago. But the stigma is at a freaking stand still. Its like people can't move beyond 1994 when I was on the cover of Essence. So I thought that I would take this opportunity to update you on the risk factors of dating a positive person and the new medical advancements. If I never talk to this man again, well at least he got me to write a blog for you, and y'all know I've not been that inspired to write very much as of late. So it's all good. 

OK! Let me lay it out for you. I'll give it to you in lay terms as much as I can. I have also provided links.  It's a tad long, but its good information, and I'm going to ask all of you to share this blog on your Social Media sites.

1) A person who is living with HIV man or female who's viral load is undetectable is very unlikely to transmit HIV to another person. Let me say it this way, even if you do not use a condom or the condom breaks, if the person living with HIV viral load is undetectable the risk of infecting another person is significantly low. Scholars have been playing it safe, and saying 96% safe.  My former doctor, whom I trust with my life,  said to me and I quote, "it's zero infection Rae" 

The latest study was 30,000 sexual acts with a positive and negative person and Zero inflections. WHAT THE HECK DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN???? Glad you asked. It means that a person in treatment with an undetectable viral load both in their blood, semen ad vaginal secretions, CANNOT transmit HIV. Now let me expand viral load.

A) Viral Load is the amount of HIV that has copied in your body. The more it copies, the sicker a person is likely to be, and the greater risk there is of infecting their partner. 

Thirty-Five years into the AIDS pandemic, treatment is remarkable. There are 32 different HIV medications, which we call antiretrovirals and five different classes of antiretrovirals. Taking a combination of antiretrovirals is often referred to as HAART. When a person takes HAART medications it actually reduces the HIV virus from the body and blocks copies of newer resistant strains when the virus copies. This viral suppression means that a person will less likely develop AIDS Related Complex or even transition to AIDS. 

If  a person has already transitioned to AIDS, like in my case, HAART therapy will suppress the virus from doing any new damage to my body. But the damage that has already been done to my immune system cannot be reversed. ( that's why I have more health problems then the average person today with HIV) 

The success of HAART is why its important for people to be tested at lest once a year. Being diagnosed early, getting into treatment, complying with treatment and staying in treatment will prolog your life and the quality of your life.  Furthermore, this alone will reduce the new cases of HIV. About 38% of newly diagnosed persons with HIV are infected by a person who did not know that they were infected.

B) There are some factors in transmission of HIV with an undetectable viral load, such as, other sexually transmitted diseases, menstruation, and the level of virus in a woman's vaginal sectarians and male semen. Usually, HAART medication reduces ones viral load in both blood, semen and vaginal sectarians, but there are some instances where this has not been the case. Read here

C) An Undetectable Viral Load does NOT mean that you no longer have HIV. Yes, HIV is still in your body, but in very small amounts. The smaller the amount the more difficult it is to transmit HIV. Undetectable is optimum.

D) What if a persons Viral Load goes up? Well it then means that the risk factor of infecting someone goes up, and this also increases their chances of disease progression. So for example, back in 1997 my viral load for 400,000 thats a lot of virus, My T-Cell Count was 8 and I was very sick. During this time the risk of me infecting someone was far greater then today. 

E) Why does a person Viral Load increase? Drug resistance. HIV in your body has developed a resistance to the medications, whether it's one in your combination, or all? 

F) Why does a person develop resistant to HAART therapy? Typically failure to comply with ones treatment is the reason resistance sets in, but not exclusively.

  • When a person does not take their medication as prescribed; missing dosage, stopping and starting at random all of these can cause a resistance. BUT if a person does what they are supposed to do then the chances of resistance is low. Of course their can be just plain old drug failure, but if a person is in care their doctor is on top of it.  

  • For example, my viral load gets tested every 3 months. And BTW my Viral Load has been undetectable for 13 years and staying steady, thanks be to God, but ummm I do what the fuck I'm supposed to do too. POW!! If you don't do good, you can't expect good results!

G) Ok I know, I know what you are saying, nothing is full proof. I agree, that's why condom use is still important.  Plus I'm not trying to get Zike from anyone. BOOM! But we have come a long way from those early days when risk factor was so much higher. I'm going to also remind you that female to male transmission has always been very low. Its like 20-1 that a woman will infect a man.

2) PrEP is also a medical breakthrough in HIV Treatment and Care!

What the heck is PrEP! I'm glad you asked. Its a pre-exposure prophylaxis; a once a day antiretroviral that a person who is not infected takes to prevent HIV infection. Yep, one pill, once a day. I've covered this topic in my Charlie Sheen blog here. But the bottom line, PrEP does prevent HIV. I think a person must determine for themselves, based on their lifestyle if they should consider taking PrEP Now that I'm back in the groove. I will write another blog about PReP in the next week or so to give you my detail thoughts, in the meantime you can learn about it here.

For sure we have come a long way in thirty-five years. What I want for you, is to advance your mind with the medical advancements. This staying stuck and not embracing these new and exciting advancements around HIV is like ummmm still trying to use My Space. This staying stuck also perpetuates stigma. If you continue to relegate AIDS to be this horrible death sentence that it once was, you continue to deny those living and thriving  with HIV the beautiful miracle of life. Keeping HIV in a time warped continues to push the paradigm of hopelessness. Does that impact our dating, you damn right cause who wants to date someone who society believes is a walking death sentence!? Come on y'all, help a sista out, change your mind and your ass will follow....

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