Sitting with Rae Lewis-Thornton, surrounded by Christmas ornaments and an aura full of joy and promise, I realize life goes on with each and every breath.
Rae Lewis-Thornton is in the prime of her life. She is vibrant, beautiful, accomplished, intelligent and quite the activist. For the past 27 years, Rae has been the voice, and face, of living life with HIV/AIDS. As we brace for what should be the biggest and most exposed media frenzy, World Aids Day on December 1st, may go on with many wondering if the mission will be noticed at all.
Modern technology has afforded the masses with messages to utilize social media to its fullest. That is exactly what Rae Lewis-Thornton does every day. Rae reaches out to those on Twitter and Facebook, sharing her trials and medical challenges, urging safe sex and bringing awareness. Rae shares statistics with her “Tweet-Fam” that are hugely important to prevention: “Live your life because you are not exempt.” There are 30,000 new cases a year. “38% of those cases”, Rae shares, “are completely new cases by people who were unaware that they have been infected. Looking at someone is not the way to determine someone’s status. There must be emphasis on testing and testing often”. No one escapes from the savage side effects of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. The first complications may present quietly with the human immunodeficiency virus as the immune system begins to fail. The diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, but rather a life altered by medications, discomfort and raging infections. Rae takes you through her daily struggles and challenges us all into remembering that HIV/AIDS is preventable. She urges we must take the mythology out of HIV/AIDS and we can start with visiting sites such as World Aids Campaign or WHO or listening to closely to those who are living and loving as they fight for normalcy, answers and a cure.
Craig Johnson, Chicago Community Health Promoter for RUSH University Medical Center, says despite the onslaught of education and informational opportunities, “the stigma remains. Miscommunicated misinformation is prevalent, and is ironically so high, that we have a lot of work to do in making sure that the community acknowledges HIV/AIDS is not curable nor is it an easy disease to live with. When you know better, you do better. Chicago has a high viral load, and people need to be conscientious that if you have sex you are at risk.”
HIV/AIDS is turning 30 in 2011, so be sure to leave your intimidation right here on this webpage. Take control of your health at your very next physician’s visit, be confident and find out your status. You absolutely want to know. There are low-cost clinic atmospheres that will preserve your anonymity.
Chicagonistas, follow the World AIDS Day 2010 on Twitter at #WAD2010 or #WAC_L4R. Know your HIV/AIDS status by getting tested today!