Tina Knowles-Lawson isn’t just the mother of Beyoncé and Solange, she’s also a powerful businesswoman, speaker, and advocate. Recently, she sat down with the Black AIDS Institute for Black Voices Matter, a new video discussion series, to talk about her personal experience with HIV and AIDS.
“When I was growing up, Johnny was three years older than me, and he was my very best friend in the whole world. We made clothes together, we did everything together… he was a great designer, he won all kinds of awards. He ended up working as a nanny for Beyoncé and Solange, designed dresses for them and did their hair, and ended up being “that other parent to my kids,” Knowles-Lawson said.
When Johnny died from AIDS-related complications when her kids were teens, the loss changed Knowles-Lawson’s life. “It touched me like nothing else in my life, like no other loss has ever touched me,” she said in the 35-minute interview with CEO and president of the Black AIDS Institute Raniyah Copeland.
Knowles-Lawson talked about visiting Johnny in hospice care and seeing other patients who had no one to visit them because of the stigma and ignorance around HIV. That judgment around the disease got so bad that she didn’t even want to talk to friends and family about the loss. Now she speaks out so that more people can be educated on HIV, especially within the Black community.
“It was a terrible time. People were afraid and there were a lot of myths and misconceptions about it and fear, and it was a really tough time. I often think about him and think that if only he could have gotten in later, it would have been more treatment for it, it would have been more advanced, and he wouldn’t have been ostracized so much.”
The discussion goes on to cover issues from the current global pandemic, to statistics about the frighteningly high rates of HIV infection among gay Black men, how people can live long and healthy lives with HIV today, and ways to spread knowledge and understanding.
Black Voices Matter is a “year-long conversation series that amplifies Black influencers with varied perspectives and platforms” that includes “individuals who represent the spectrum of all Black lives” aiming “to create HIV awareness in spaces where it has previously been ignored or misunderstood.” More episodes will be coming.