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Writer George M. Johnson Shares Their Personal Story Living With HIV

author George M. Johnson

"Bearing witness can change lives..." Johnson told Plus, "oftentimes, It just takes one of us to tell the story of all of us to create real change."

Award-winning and best-selling author and journalist George M. Johnson (Ebony, Teen Vogue, All Boys Aren't Blue) went on Twitter this morning to talk about their personal story of being diagnosed and living with HIV.

“Ten years ago today I was diagnosed HIV-positive. Today I share my story,” the first tweet read. “When I was first diagnosed, my viral load was around 2700 with a t-cell count of 197,” they continued in the thread, “at that time, anything below 200 was supposed to be diagnosed as AIDS. Fortunately I had a doctor who said ‘I am not putting that label on a 25 year old who I know can beat this.'”

When first diagnosed, Johnson didn’t have the knowledge or resources to know what they were dealing with, and “though every cough or cold meant it was over.” But they soon learned that wasn’t the case.

“By 2013 I educated myself on HIV and built an amazing circle of friends to help me get into treatment,” their tweets continue, “That same year I became undetectable and in care.” They knew they weren't the only one uneducated about HIV, and decided they wanted to help change that.

Johnson tweeted that, “by 2015, I was working as a community healthcare worker in the HIV field. That same year I became the director of testing and counseling while also starting a journalism career. I began writing about the HIV epidemic from a Black queer perspective.”

They know that being publicly poz is important, especially as a Black queer man. “We lost so many Black queer creatives to the epidemic,” they tweeted, “I now live because of them. Their spirit rests in me as do their stories.” They believes that the epidemic’s days are numbered, and they will continue to fight to educate their communities.

Johnson ended their thread with a message to others living with HIV. “I once was where many of you are. Newly diagnosed. Feeling alone. Suffering in silence,” they tweeted, “I choose to live publicly so you know that you are not alone. To combat stigma & shame.” They finished with the message, “I want you to know we will get through this and get to a day where HIV is no longer an epidemic. Together.”

Johnson is a writer and activist, known for their writing at Teen Vogue, Entertainment Tonight, The Root, Ebony, Buzzfeed, and Essence, among many others. They also speak on issues effecting Black queer people, including HIV, which they were diagnosed with at age 25. Their memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue was a bestseller, and is being adapted for TV by Gabrielle Union.

Johnson told Plus why they decided to share their story today. "I've come to a point in my life where I know my purpose and the power in storytelling,” they said. “Bearing witness can change lives. I see daily how many people are moved by the words I wrote in my book. Oftentimes, It just takes one of us to tell the story of all of us to create real change.”

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