Nationally acclaimed speaker and HIV/AIDS activist Rae Lewis-Thornton is hosting “Real Talk” in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7 in Lee Hall Auditorium.
Lewis-Thornton, a magna cum laude graduate of Northeastern Illinois University, has a first-hand account of what it’s like to live with HIV/AIDS and is on a crusade to destroy the stigmas and increase the education about this destructive disease.
“Well I intend to talk very openly and very candidly about the impact of (HIV/AIDS) on my life,” said Lewis-Thornton, who has been living with the disease for more that 20 years.
AIDS and HIV first came to light in the early 80s, according to AVERT, an international AIDS charity.
“I donated blood in the winter of 1985, they weren’t even promoting testing then,” Lewis-Thornton said. “The year I found out was the year they developed the antibody test to detect the disease.”
In the 80s, AIDS was a disease associated to only gay men, intravenous drug users and people with medical conditions like hemophilia, Lewis-Thornton said. That is no longer the case.
In support of Lewis-Thornton’s mission, Florida A&M University and the Leon County Health Department is sponsoring NBH/AAD with this and other free events, open to the public.
Beginning on Feb. 6, there will be an awareness rally on The Set at noon, followed by a Rap-it-up-Freestyle Contest at 7 p.m. in Lee Hall. Feb. 7 is NBH/AAD in which The Set, once again, will host “Omni-‘Condom’nation: Making Safe Sex Fashionable,” a fashion show promoting the use of condoms. Later, beginning at 7 p.m., Lee Hall welcomes Lewis-Thornton, a dynamic speaker and licensed minister to the campus. Beginning at 11 a.m. on Feb. 8, there will be free campus-wide testing until 2 p.m. in the following locations: FAMU Clinic, the New Pharmacy building rooms 208 and 209, and the OSUA building.
Luckson Lambert, a senior physical education and physical therapy student from Ft. Lauderdale said, “I plan to attend all of the events, especially to hear Rae Lewis-Thornton on Tuesday.” Lambert, originally from Haiti, is also active in reversing the pandemic of the AIDS virus.
“I support Lewis-Thornton because I am affected by this disease in that anytime I go around the neighborhood, there is always somebody in my neighborhood with the disease,” Lambert said. “We are to afraid to educate ourselves.”
He says the students don’t understand that living in a college town puts them at a greater risk.
Like other students, Ebonye Redding from Orlando has also been affected by the deadly, yet avoidable wrath of HIV.
“I lost someone very close to me to AIDS, so this especially hits home,” said Ebonye, a senior textiles student at FSU. “I would definitely be willing to participate in the activities.”
Tarika Green, a fine arts student from Rochester, N.Y., said that awareness should be a yearlong effort.
“It should be everyday awareness, not just one day,” she said. “People are not protecting themselves and they are putting their lives in other people’s hands.”
It is the mission of FAMU Student Health Services and Leon County Health Department to raise awareness of AIDS in not only the black community, but also the community as a whole.
All of the sponsoring organizations mentioned earlier are encouraging everyone who can to participate in as many events as possible on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to come out and do so. But it doesn’t stop there. It is no secret that the impact of HIV/AIDS is a global one.
Lewis-Thornton guarantees that Feb. 7 will be a unique event, unlike any other speaker and “whomever comes will not be disappointed.” She is confident in her work, her appearance and her overall sense of self. “I am funny, I am intense. I am attractive, I am beautiful,” she said. “It’s going to be fun.”
For more information contact Shelia Morris (850) 414-7845 or Brian Perry of the Leon County Health Department, or SGA Surgeon General, at (850) 599-3624.