Thornton lives with AIDS

Abbie Moeller

Rae Lewis Thornton feels no less alive having AIDS, and it shows.

“I’m living until I do die,” the former political adviser and author told about 200 people Wednesday night during a candid speech.

The bottom line with AIDS, she said, is a choice — one can choose to be free, or one can choose to die.

Thornton said she has chosen to live — something she said she didn’t do until she developed AIDS more than five years ago.

One reason Thornton gave for her success is her supportive network of friends, and she encouraged audience members to reach out to those people who are infected.

“You can touch people with AIDS; you can hug people with AIDS; you can love people with AIDS,” she said.

Thornton said she wants people to understand that anyone can contract AIDS, regardless of social status or other factors.

“Behavior puts you at risk for HIV,” she said.

Thornton said most women are infected by someone they love or think they love, and even people who don’t have casual sex can get HIV. She said she contracted HIV in college while dating socially upstanding men — ones with money and nice cars.

“Someone driving a Mercedes infected me,” she said.

Although she has been fairly healthy for the past two years, Thornton said she continues to take medication and look for the release of new drug treatments.

“If there’s a 1 percent side effect [to a medicine], I get it,” she said.

AIDS destroys everything — body, spirit and soul, Thornton said, but she is “trying to die with a little dignity.”

Dignity is something she has struggled with all her life. She was born a drug-addicted baby and left home at the age of 17 after gossip spread about her disease.

Thornton said not being able to have children was “one of the most painful losses.”

However, Thornton was not at a loss for words when she told female audience members that no man is worth risking life and death.

“There is no penis on the planet that is worth your life,” she said.

Thornton will not blame anyone for contracting AIDS, but she advised people to be careful when choosing sexual partners.

“If the penis is not in your pocket, you have no idea what it is doing,” she said.

One of the major problems with AIDS is that it mutates and develops immunities to medication, she said.

A person can be infected by each new and different strain, which is why Thornton said she still uses a condom every time she has sex.

Thornton’s speech, which was held in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union, was sponsored by the Black Student Alliance and the Committee on Lectures.