As we close out National AIDS awareness month, we would like to share the story of Dying to be a D.I.V.A. author, Kecia J. This author, HIV/AIDS Educator, and International Speaker & Truth Strategist, was one of the faces of Wal-Green’s “Let’s Grow Old Together” campaign last year. While most find AIDS to be difficult to discuss, Kecia J. has spent the past 11 years sharing her story to educate others and show that life can continue on, after being diagnosed.
Before going into Kecia’s interview, we would like to share some facts about HIV/AIDS, because we often use the terms interchangeably, when we should not.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
- In 2015, 18,303 people received an AIDS diagnosis.
- The chart belows shows stats broken into subpopulations.
According to Healthline:
- HIV is a virus that may cause an infection, but AIDS is a condition or a syndrome. Being infected with HIV can lead to the development of AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
- AIDS develops when HIV has caused serious damage to the immune system. It is a complex condition with symptoms that vary from person to person. Symptoms of AIDS are related to the infections a person develops as a result of having a damaged immune system that can’t fight infections as well. These infections may include tuberculosis, pneumonia, certain types of cancer, and other infections
Now for our Q&A with Kecia J.
Fancy: How would you describe your swagher? What makes Kecia J., Kecia J.?
Kecia: You know what…it is funny you ask me that because so many people say that I have a different type of “swagher”, than anyone they have encountered. To be honest with you, I possess a type of swagger that many fail to have and that is just simply me being “authentic”. When a person meets me, they get Kecia J! One thing you can ask various people and it will remain consistent, is that “Kecia J is real and authentic”.
Fancy: Please share a little about how you discovered you had AIDS.
Kecia: I actually had been in a relationship for about 3 years and after that relationship was over, I started to see certain things change. Since I had no idea that those were signs of the virus then, I never took the time to check up on it with my doctor. So almost a year after exiting that relationship, I was at a friend’s house taking a shower and I collapsed while bathing. After getting rushed to the hospital and being in for about a month, one of the doctors on staff came in and told me I had AIDS.
Fancy: How did you find the courage to share your status?
Kecia: The moment I was told that I had AIDS, something just sparked in me that others had to hear my truth. In that moment, I said to myself, “I will do all I can so another young woman will not endure what I have”. From there on, I have been sharing my truth. I just had this sense of numbness over me that I didn’t care about the backlash, stigma, or anything that may come my way with sharing my truth. All I wanted to do was open the eyes of the world to an issue that is a vital one for young women and just our community, PERIOD.
Fancy: It’s been over 10 years since you were diagnosed with AIDS. How does life resume after that?
Kecia: I now live undetectable and healthy. I do have my down days, because of my lower than normal ability to create the average t-cell count, but I have found a way to work around that through a healthy lifestyle as well. Life has its way of showing you that everything you have been through has only been presented to make you stronger. The life that I have created for myself, is one where I have positioned myself to be a blessing to others through sharing my truth. I understand the world we live in. It’s one where we are okay with highlighting fluff and foolery, but fall short in highlighting the truth! Life has resumed in a way for me that has completely changed my life and the lives of others, and it was simply from me just living my truth.
Fancy: We often say, “it’s God’s plan” and everything happens as it should. What are your thoughts on the matter with your diagnosis?
Kecia: Understanding “God’s Plan” over your life is one thing, but to say that phrase as a justification of a decision you made to go off of his path is a whole other ball game. I strongly believe that “God’s plan” for your life does entail some trials, but there is also certain chaos that you have to take responsibility for and understand that you put that upon yourself, because you didn’t adhere to GOD’S PLAN. I truly believe had my path not been what it was, I don’t think I would know him like I do. So needless to say, that through my poor decision making, God turned my huge mess into a message; once I trusted him and went according to his plan over my life.
Fancy: Being that we now live in a Netflix and Chill culture, what advice would you give to others about dating and sex?
Kecia: The best advice I can give today’s culture is to ALWAYS keep it real with yourself at all times. Once you are honest with yourself, YOU are going to automatically keep it real with everyone else. By that I mean, be upfront with your status. It’s ok to “Netflix & Chill”, but what about “Starbucks & Chill”. Get to know the one you are looking to “chill” with! Ask those taboo questions that should not be TABOO! This is your health on the line. It all falls in line with being true to yourself first!
Fancy: While there’s much information out there, there are still so many untruths shared about HIV/AIDS. Are there any that you would care to dispel?
Kecia: Great question! Absolutely I would love to, as it is important to shed light on the things that people don’t tend to understand or share when discussing HIV/AIDS. First, is that a person can’t find love or be loved. That statement gets me every time. The world has put such a huge stigma on HIV/AIDS, that a lot of people feel as though no one can love after a diagnosis. I have always been an example of that being untrue. It’s about educating your potential partner. Being honest with yourself and giving them the right to choose. Secondly, is that it is a death sentence. That is far from the truth. With any disease, it’s about self care. What has kept me going for eleven years is my ability to nurture myself from the inside out. If that means taking a break to fast, eat healthy consistently and workout, then that is what that means. Lastly, the world isn’t educated enough on a person living with the virus becoming undetectable! Which means that when the viral load can’t be detected through regular tests at the doctor, a person is then said to be “undetectable”. Being in that position makes it close to impossible for the virus to be transmitted. Again, it’s all about choices, and I immediately chose me after my diagnosis.
Fancy: Are you working on any projects or events that you care to share?
Kecia: Yes, I am super excited of what is to come. I can definitely say, 2018 is going to be an amazing year. Every year I take a break from all social media for about 90 days or so to just reflect and strengthen my mind to prepare for the next level of life. With that said, the next few projects will be putting me on a major platform in a visual way. I will be putting myself out there in a form that I never have, so I’m excited. Also I’m excited to team up with a few celebrities the end of this year for a Snapchat takeover! After doing “LoveIsTheGag” with KeKe Palmer last year, a few people reached out to me to connect! So, definitely follow me on Snapchat, so you can really get an insight on all of what’s to come!
Learn more about Kecia J. and follow her below:
To read more on the CDC information click here.
To read more on the difference between HIV and AIDS click here.