Her Voice

I Developed AIDS At The Age of 22 From Someone In The Music Industry

I met him in a nightclub parking lot in Houston, Texas. I was 19 years old.


At the time, I was a sophomore at Sam Houston State, planning to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha and ride out my college experience. But, I was also at that point in life where I longed to have Prince Charming sweep me off my feet so we could live happily ever after. Admittedly, I felt that without this element of my life, I was incomplete. I was a broken, lost, and scattered soul - not at all prepared for what I was about to endure.

He was a well-known Houston area music executive. He was charming and well-connected and from the moment we met, we were inseparable. He introduced me to my first job in the music world as a promotions assistant and I eventually climbed the ladder and became a manager. Being around musicians wasn't new to me. My father was a successful writer and I grew up around artists like Mint Condition and Prince. But the hip hop world was an entirely new beast, and I was completely submerged in it.

Our life was filled with power, sex, drugs, and strip clubs.

I got anything I wanted - designer clothes and shoes and entry into the hottest parties. I was rubbing elbows with the biggest names in music and the lifestyle pulled me in. So, when the cheating, lies, disrespect, emotional and mental abuse started, I had no exit plan because I constantly pacified the severity of our unhealthy relationship. Our relationship came to an abrupt end when I found out through a mutual acquaintance that he had impregnated another woman. That was the last straw and I finally left him.

A few months later, I passed out in the shower.

When I woke up, the paramedics were doing their best to keep me conscious. After being released from the hospital that day, I went back home still not feeling like myself. I had chills so bad, I was shaking like a leaf. I had a fever of 105 and I felt as if my body was starting to leave earth, and I was powerless to stop it. I tried over-the-counter medicines to bring my fever down, but nothing worked.

Eventually, I was rushed back to the hospital where I fell into a partial coma.

This time, I was in the hospital for almost a month when my mother's long-time physician walked into my room and stood over my bed. "So, about your AIDS virus," the doctor said.

I looked at her in a panic of confusion.

I was on a breathing machine so words were not an option at the time. I could only shake my head over and over - no, no, no. She said I had full-blown AIDS and only 2 t-cells remaining. Things were not looking good for me. At that point, a million questions ran through my head. How will my life move forward? Will she tell my mother? When the doctor left my room, I immediately went numb. Before I could process everything, two social workers came in and asked me to write down all of my sexual partners. They handed me some forms and I felt like I was signing my life away.

A month and a half later, I was finally released from the hospital.

Immediately, my priority became advocacy. I never wanted another woman to feel how I felt the day I was given my diagnosis, but I didn't know where to begin. Who was to blame? Was he to blame for being careless and abusive? Was I to blame because I chose not to ask his status? Either way, everything in my life was changing. I vowed to share my story with the world and inspire others about the importance of self love.

As my advocacy journey took off, I veered further away from my life in the music industry. A friend convinced me to confront my ex-boyfriend and share my truth. When I did, he was hardly receptive. Even as I walked away, he disrespectfully called out to me and said I should give him another chance because my ass got fatter. I was disgusted, but proud of myself for standing up to him, telling him what he'd done and showing him that he hadn't broken me.

Now, I travel the country speaking to people of all ages about what it means to live with AIDS. I'm still baffled by the level of unawareness associated with the stigma of AIDS and HIV. Often, I get asked questions that remind me how far we have to go as a society to learn about this virus, which is the first step in eradication. I've been living with AIDS for 11 years and my virus is currently undetectable, which means that is is absolutely untransmittable.

People I encounter are often shocked that I'm still alive.

Did you take the same thing Magic Johnson took? Are you rich?

It's still a little known fact that medicine has come a long way, and that staying on top of your medication and taking good care of your health can help people living with AIDS and HIV live long and happy lives without the threat of spreading the virus to their loved ones.

They are even more amazed to find out that I have a partner, and that we are planning a family together. It is possible, however, for those living with the virus to find love. It is possible to have a loving relationship with a supportive partner and also have the AIDS virus. I'm thankful to have a man in my life who, when faced with the reality of my situation, did not walk away. He came to the doctor with me, asked his questions, did his research, and stayed by my side.

Looking back on this journey, I don't blame myself but I do take full responsibility for my part and for not loving myself enough to walk away from a man who was not worthy of me.

Not only do I dedicate my life to educating people on the facts behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but I also facilitate self love workshops. This is what it took for me to find this incredible understanding of my own power and of my unstoppable ability to push through.

We are never defined by the mistakes we have made, but by our ability to build ourselves up despite them.

To learn more about Kecia Johnson and her HIV/AIDS advocacy work, visit her on facebook or follow her on Twitter.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com.

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In 2011 -- a year following my divorce, I met a young man who I felt could mend my heart.

He was tall, dark, handsome, well spoken and well liked -- everything a girl could dream of on paper. In the beginning there was light, a light of hope for a new love. But as time went by, the relationship spun into darkness. Whether it was the dish I cooked, shirt I picked out, or the way I answered him, it was as if nothing I did was good enough. In fact, his dissatisfaction only made me want to work harder and do more to please.

I recall times when he'd squeeze my wrist a little too hard in public as a warning, leaving bruises -- but it was my fault because I was fragile or bruised "easily." Or the time he dislocated my shoulder and I had to lie to my child because I didn't want her to worry. Each time letting him come back because he appeared to be remorseful and willing to change. But that was only the beginning.

In 2012, I faced an unplanned pregnancy. I had just lost my job and I was struggling to pay the rent. To top it off, the father of my child had given me an ultimatum (as he was "not ready" to be a father)... it was "him or the baby." So, as you can imagine, I was struggling with the decision of bringing a beautiful new babe into my chaotic world. After all, I was already a single mother with one divorce under my belt, living check to check -- now couch surfing, all the while awaiting the big day. I felt as if the weight of the world was sitting on my shoulders -- better yet, my chest!

Although I told my ex where he could put his ultimatum, he came back around to see our child's birth. And while my gut told me to "RUN" in the other direction, I took him back out of fear. Fear of what I thought would be failing yet another child. "You can't do this alone," he said. "You need me," he said. I believed him. For a few months, things appeared to be different. Until the pressure of fatherhood began to sink in. Then the drinking, cheating, lying, and abuse began to resurface.

Oddly enough, it took one fight (like so many before) to get me to LOOK UP. "You don't do sh*t for your kids," he said. "I don't even want to be here but now we have this baby." -- "I gave you an ultimatum but I'm still here. So why wouldn't you want to make it work?" he continued. As if he was doing me a favor.

Holding my baby close, I quickly scanned the room at the home I had built for "us." It was MY blood, sweat, and tears that went into making this home, I thought to myself. At that moment, I knew I'd be damned if I allowed this to continue. I would never want this for my daughters, so why am I endorsing it for myself?

As he proceeded to punch the wall, it was as if the three years preceeding the fight flashed before my eyes. I pictured myself laying on the ground in shock like years before... but this time, it was my child crying beside me. "He's got to go," I whispered to myself. With tears streaming down my face, my hands shaking, and my body quivering in fear, I opened the front door and with everything in me yelled, "GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!"

A few insults later, he managed to make it out the front door and I hit the floor... in prayer. I was ashamed. Not just because I saw this coming. But because I had been here too many times before. Although I am a different person today. There are still some days where I wish I could go back an avoid all of the pain.. much of which I am still working through today.

So, as part of the healing process, I've created a list of dating advice I'd give my younger self:

Fall in love with yourself first.

Don't spend your days in search of a partner to "complete" you. Discover what makes you SPIRITUALLY, emotionally, intellectually, and physically whole first and foremost. Then, when you do meet someone special, ask yourself, "Is this person adding or subtracting from my life" -- "Do they build me up or break me down?" I think Oprah said it best. Don't spend your life searching for the perfect person. Work to make yourself the perfect person for YOU, and then... only then, will "the right person be drawn to you based upon the work that you put out."

[Tweet "First, discover what makes you spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically whole."]

If someone tells you're they're not good for you, believe them and RUN.

You cannot save everyone! While mending the brokenhearted is practically embedded in your DNA, people are who they are. Some people are going to destroy themselves, no matter how much you try to "help" them. If someone says that they are "no good" for you, or "trouble," take that at face value and run the other way. Just because you are open and capable of love does not mean the one you "want" is ready for love. You will deplete yourself by trying to "heal" this person -- which in the end, will do you more harm than good.

Trust your intuition.

It's trying to protect you! Never stop sharing your love; that's why you were put on this Earth. But sometimes real love means saying goodbye. It takes much more courage to let something go than it does to hold tight -- or try to "fix" it. Letting go doesn't mean you're ignoring the situation. It simply means you're accepting what is, exactly as it is, without fear, opposition, or desire for control.

[Tweet "Trust your intuition. It's trying to protect you."]

Talk it out!

As difficult as this may be sometimes, do NOT keep your feelings bottled up! People are not mind readers. They should not have to jump through hoops to uncover when and how they have wronged you. Pass on the fit of tears over dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and open the floor to a grown-up discussion at an appropriate time in private. Learn how to separate the person from the issue. Be soft on the person but firm on the issue. If you want to find long-term relationship success, you're going to have to learn how to communicate.

Forgive yourself.

Life didn't come with instructions. You are not your mistakes. You are not your struggles. You are here NOW with the power to shape your tomorrow. Take all the time you need to heal. The key to breaking free from your broken self, is baby steps -- taking it one day at a time. Never let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life. Just because today is painful doesn't mean tomorrow won't be great. You WILL get there.

What advice would you give your younger self? Do share!

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