The Cure Chronicles: HIV with Kecia Johnson
The Cure Chronicles is delighted to welcome Kecia Johnson. Kecia is an HIV activist, best-selling author, social media influencer, former music executive, and the mother of a three-year-old. After being diagnosed with AIDS at age 22, Kecia began advocating to change people's mindsets on HIV and AIDS by telling her story around the world. She also participates on a variety of women's empowerment panels.
In January 2016, Kecia published a book called "Dying to be Diva," which shares her experience to inspire others who are living with HIV. As a black woman who has lived with HIV for more than 16 years, Kecia is dedicated to using her experience and knowledge to help challenge the stigma around HIV, and improve HIV awareness.
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Jeff Galvin: Kecia, thank you so much for joining us on the Cure Chronicles today.
Kecia Johnson: Thank you for having me, thank you so much.
Jeff Galvin: Well, I gotta say that I was really looking forward to this because I believe you have a very inspirational story for people who are dealing with any kind of challenge; of course, it relates to HIV. You were diagnosed with HIV and you've also dealt with cancer, and then you've gone on to become an empowerment maven (I want to know exactly what that is) and a logistics mogul (self-proclaimed). And a mother, right?
So, you’re not just surviving all these things, but bringing up a family. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience living with HIV and dealing with these other things and how it all comes together and how you manage all these things?
Kecia Johnson: Yes, yes. Well, again thank you so much for having me. When it comes to talking about HIV/AIDS, I get on a rampage and I love it. It lights up my life, because I do know that a lot of people need to be educated about it, and I'm willing to sacrifice my story to do that.
When I was diagnosed, it was December 6, 2006. It's so crazy because I was diagnosed with cancer, obviously in 2020, but when I was diagnosed with AIDS, actually I did not know I was positive. I actually passed out in the shower and at a friend's house, and I went to the doctor and they sent me home for a viral infection, respiratory infection, that was not the case. I ended up getting sicker and having a fever of 105.
Then I was rushed to the hospital by a family member, my aunt to be exact, and after being in the hospital for almost a month, they then told me that I have AIDS and I only had two T cells, which is why I passed out, because PCP pneumonia had taken over my body.
So in the moment, I was kind of disheveled, because it was just kind of like, "what?" You know, you hear about things. We hear about the Magic Johnson story, we hear about those stories, but you don't hear day-to-day stories about HIV, so for me it was just like, "wait, what?"
And I just, I think I was a bit in shock for some months, because I just kind of kept going and going and going. My only message to my doctor was "Don't tell my mother," because she was my mother's general practitioner. She was a different doctor, because their infectious disease doctor, who was on staff, just could not figure out what it was because it was lying dormant in my system.
So after, again, weeks of testing, weeks of trying to figure out what it was, that was the diagnosis.
From that moment, I've always been a person that you know once it appears like I'm defeated, I'm always going to do the exact opposite and try in some way.
So I was diagnosed in December and I was doing my first speaking engagement in May of 2007.
Jeff Galvin: Wow.
Kecia Johnson: I'd lost close to 100 pounds from wasting. That's what happens in the last stage.
Jeff Galvin: Wow, your HIV had really progressed, and your AIDS was full on at that point, when you're talking about wasting disease. But once they figured it out, they got you on meds right away…
Kecia Johnson: Yes.
Jeff Galvin: …and so you were starting to come back. But even in that situation you were going out and starting to tell your story? That's remarkable. Why? Why was that the first reaction?
Kecia Johnson: I'm gonna tell you why. Because initially once I was diagnosed, I was under my mother’s insurance. However, once you turn 23, that was at an end. So an amazing United Healthcare insurance to absolutely nothing and I had to get on state care. So after that, I felt like "Where do I go?" Like, my parents? Who's gonna cover me?
And I had Dr Ong, which was here in Texas, in Katy, Texas. In my last visit with him he put me on a clinical trial. That clinical trial had me on Kaletra/Truvada. I was taking 14 pills in the morning, 14 pills in the evening, and he said, "I'm gonna give you a referral, try these clinics out."
One of those actual referrals led me to Pax Clinic, which is now something else, but it was a clinic that was kind of ducked off here in Houston. Dr. Cars and Dr. Hamel, which is an OB GYN for infectious disease, I was a bit like put off because it was in a community that services you know, LGBTQIA community or trans women.
So I was just like, "I'm okay with that, but nobody looks like me here, you know?" So it was like I was in a Twilight Zone in a sense, but I knew I had to do what I had to do to keep my health sustained, because with that clinical trial, it did get me back to having an undetectable type, and I looked incredible. You wouldn't even know that I was in the slump that I was in just four months prior, but I was I going to, how was I going to sustain myself and keep myself there and that paranoia from me.
So I ended up seeing a flyer on the door at that clinic for a sister circle, a woman's circle, and I ended up calling that number because I was like, "I don't know who to tell, nobody knows, I'm in this box by myself, and I have nowhere to turn." So from that flyer, I met Kirby Gray, who worked for the Montrose Clinic here in Houston, and I went to him, and I think that was the first time I just, I didn't cry, but I was just so, I just went on a rampage talking to him. I was like, "I don't know what to do, like where do I go, where do I go get medication?" And he's, "Calm down, how would you feel about telling your story? Maybe that will help." And it was on and running from there.
Jeff Galvin: So he encouraged you to just kind of let it out, but it wasn't even just that you were telling your story to him, it sounds like you were like up and speaking to audiences of high school students and other folks. What was the purpose of that? Besides being able to be out and dealing with it consciously and not hiding from the stigma?
That was a very brave thing to do, to stand up 22 years ago and say that you're HIV positive with the level of misunderstanding back then. It's still bad, but back then, you know, that was in the days of the 14 pills. Now, you take one or a couple of pills a day and it's reliable.
But back then, wow, I mean, like you said, you don't give up. You face an issue, and you just lunge into it, you know, just straight on. That really is above and beyond. So why?
Kecia Johnson: Well, I've always been that way. I’ve always been the fighter. I started my career, which was kind of like a push in the career in the music industry, and I just saw how women were at a disadvantage there. After being diagnosed, I was like, I will not be that unvoiced woman who will not talk or tell her story or be muted. I refuse to do that.
After I spoke at Cashmere High School, again here in Houston, the whole room was silent. That was a room full of doctors, nurses, radio personalities, musicians, and high school students. The main question I received after I was done speaking was, "You don't look like you have it, or you don't look like you have AIDS." And all I could say was, "It doesn't have a look, a smell, a touch." From that moment, I knew I was like, "This is what I'm supposed to do. This is what I have to do," because everyone literally looked like they saw a ghost when I spoke.
Jeff Galvin: Because of the shock value of you getting up and saying that. But then, by the time you said you had lost all that weight and you were in wasting disease, you still weren't showing any outward signs, even when you were at that level of having that progression of AIDS. That's remarkable.
Yeah, so you just looked a little skinny, basically, but other than that, you looked normal. And so you get up in front of them and tell them, "Well, I have this virus," and people are having a hard time registering, almost like they don't believe you. It sounds like.
Kecia Johnson: Right.
Jeff Galvin: Do you think they were a little bit in denial of HIV in general? Were they sort of projecting on you because they didn't want to believe it? Or was it just that there was no outward sign, and it was just that stark situation that people were like they don't believe it?
Kecia Johnson: Right. I think it's, and let's just be honest, in my community, in the community of men and women of color, it's one of those things we just don't want to talk about until it's affected within our inner circle. And it's the world, period. However, in my community, it's one of those, like, "Wait a minute, she has it. Oh, let's not touch her, let's not talk to her. She can sneeze on me, she can breathe on me."
And so it's almost as if… and this is the honest truth: they feel like Magic Johnson is the only person who had it, every time I hear it, they always refer back to him, and I was just like, you know, there are people who are living who are not NBA players, who are not world-renowned individuals, who are living this day to day and have to navigate stigma.
But if I move forward looking like this and talking the way I do in confidence, and still living, working in an industry at the time that was, of course, would never talk about it, how many lives could I change if I do that? And that's all I thought about in that moment.
Jeff Galvin: Oh, I'm sure it changed a lot of lives back then, because nobody was talking about it back then. I mean, it was so rare that somebody would get up and be open about their status, and you jumped right into it, just like you said, you know you are gonna face it head-on. And then you're talking to a bunch of people, and I guess part of the message is just awareness, but were there any other things were you trying to get them to understand that, you know, this is something that affects everybody, and so you have to consider it?
Obviously, Magic Johnson is not relatable; you immediately write him off for a couple of reasons. One is, an NBA star is a little bit hard to relate to right off, but then you go, "Well, he slept with thousands of women, no wonder." Or something like that, you just feel like, "Yeah, that's it, it'll never happen to me."
Yeah, and the odd thing is, is that I guess there's been a lack of awareness of it, or at least some lack of action amongst people of color…
Kecia Johnson: Absolutely.
Jeff Galvin: …because if you look at the Black population in the United States, it's what, about 14%, and 42% of the HIV infections? That's ridiculous. So you were really cutting right at the core of it to go out to these high school students and to say, "Hey look, you know, don't think you're immune, right? Don't listen to the preachers, this is not God's punishment for being gay, you know, this is not a gay disease, it's an anybody disease, viruses don't discriminate."
And I suppose, you know, that 42% could have been 50% if people like you weren't out there and actually talking about it.
Jeff Galvin: So what was the reaction like, if you have your family, friends, the community? Now you're completely open about your situation, and how did they react to you?
Kecia Johnson: You know, I didn't tell my family. So I was diagnosed in 2006, I did not tell my family until 2009, and this was my reasoning: I feel, and when I talk to other advocates and just anyone in general, it's always best to tell third parties and family and friends when you have educated yourself and you are the most confident in it, because you never know how they're going to react.
They're going to have a cry, a meltdown, "Oh my God, you're gonna die," and you have to have some sort of sustainability to say, "No, that's not where we're at now, in this space, there are people living and thriving." You can talk to them about what T cells are, you can talk to them about being undetectable. And when you're first diagnosed, those are questions that you don't even really know the answer to, because it's coming to you so quick.
Jeff Galvin: I want to stop there for a second, that's terrific advice. The number one person to educate is yourself. Some people who get the diagnosis may already have a lot of awareness, they may have friends with it, and there's more material out there now, so maybe it's a little easier than it was 22 years ago for you to get confident about the science of it, the rational view of this, and also to get your feelings sorted out.
And then you face people who, all of a sudden, you are kind of hitting them cold. You go to your mother, and you go, "I need to tell you that I have HIV." That's a person who had never thought about that possibility, knows nothing about HIV, and the broad spectrum of reactions that you could encounter at that point like you said could be anything. But you were prepared at that point.
How did it go with your friends and your family when you had that conversation?
Kecia Johnson: Everyone cried. The only person who didn't cry was my mother. My mother is very conservative and very pristine. Her thing is, she just kind of shoots from the gut, and she knew where I got it from. She was, "I knew that situation shouldn’t have happened. I knew you shouldn't have been with that person." Those were her words.
They did cry, and in a sense of like, "Oh my goodness," just like anyone else. You think life is over. But when they saw my reaction and they saw that, "Okay, you were diagnosed in 2006, but you look like this and you've been doing it this long, okay, so educate me."
Jeff Galvin: A lot of people that I've talked to felt that they should go and tell people right away, but you’re right, you were really thoughtful about that interaction. And I’m listening to you and I’m thinking yeah, you also had three years of history at that point, not just educating yourself, but you could talk about a trajectory about it. This is exactly how I’m dealing with it and it's working and my T cells are recovering and I have an expectation of a normal life, and all those things that sound more credible when you can speak from having dealt with it for some time. Whereas if you’re just diagnosed, you don’t have that history to fall back on.
Jeff Galvin: One of the things that you did is you wrote this book, "Dying to be Diva."
Kecia Johnson: Yes.
Jeff Galvin: And I hear it is a best-selling novel. Congratulations, that's amazing.
Kecia Johnson: Thank you.
Jeff Galvin: It’s kind of obvious what inspired you to write the book, but what was the message of the book? What were you conveying in this story?
Kecia Johnson: Let me say this, it took me seven years to write the book. I started in 2007, and it was completed by 2013-14. The whole point of it was everyone called me Diva because I carried myself in such a way to where I was very proper, very kind of, to myself. I carried myself a certain way, so everyone took that as a diva-esque persona.
And so to the point to where you feel like you're trying to live up to something that other people have pegged on you, and by the time I looked, I realized that I was literally dying on the inside from trying to live up to a person, this label, and this word that everyone is putting on me. And I'm just Kecia, you know, that I, yes, I carry myself a certain way, yes, I did come from a certain home. My mom is an educator, a dean. Yes, but that does not mean I have to live up to how you feel like I should live.
Internally, I was really dying. I was suffering from mental health; anxiety and depression. I was in a horrible relationship where I accepted things that I should not have accepted. Because my exterior looked good, but my interior was literally dying.
Up until the point where the book closes out, where the lady walks in and tells me that I have the AIDS virus, and I almost died from that, to be very quite honest from you, I literally did. I was on a breathing machine.
So, it's a book about the name, which makes you think, like, okay, now what? Dying to be Diva? Yeah, I was genuinely dying to be, to keep up with this persona that others had pegged on me. And the person that, not saying that I'm not, but I'm not what you are building me to be, right?
Jeff Galvin: So, it sounds like because of the ovarian lottery, like where you started off from, there was some level of expectations on you, and then you adopted those.
Kecia Johnson: Yes.
Jeff Galvin: So you said, "Okay, well, I'll take that," and you tried to live up to it. And then you actually saw that some of the consequences of not being true to yourself and not saying like, "You know, I'm gonna be what I am regardless of what you want me to be or what you think I am, I'm just going to be me." One of the consequences of that was actually getting the HIV diagnosis or infection, because you were accepting people in your life that otherwise you might have passed on or avoided. Like that was somehow related to the point up to the whole journey to that day that you got diagnosed.
Well, that's remarkable. I think the title is intriguing, "Dying to be Diva," but it really is dying from being a diva.
Kecia Johnson: Exactly.
Jeff Galvin: And then the story is not about your journey from the point where you got diagnosed, it's your journey up to that. No wonder it's a best-selling novel, because that is something that is connectable, again, by almost anybody. Aren't we all in some ways trying to live up to other people's expectations? Sometimes we're just trying to live up to the expectations of advertisers on TV or reality shows or whatever.
And that lesson of being comfortable in your own skin, for better or for worse, you don't have to be perfect, and you don't have to have a perfect facade. You don't have to spend all that energy trying to create that perfect facade, right?
Kecia Johnson: Exactly.
Jeff Galvin: Great idea for a book. I'm glad that it's getting such a great response out there. You talk a lot in the book about your battles with mental health, and that, I think, is also quite relatable. People are afraid to deal with problems in their thinking because it's invisible, and there's a stigma associated with that as well. That always blows my mind. It's like, you break your leg, you go to the doctor, right, because you're feeling a ton of pain in your leg, and they can fix you up, and you can be more mobile.
If you're feeling pain in your brain, like depression or anxiety or whatever, there is actually a whole field of medicine out there that can repair those things. And it isn't that when you take anxiety medication or something like that, I think a lot of people sometimes feel like that's being really vulnerable to go ahead and even treat a depression, because it's sort of like, uh, maybe something similar to how people feel about taking an HIV, you know, uh, treatment pill like antiretrovirals every day, it's like a reminder, right? Like, "I'm different," right?
But the reality is that, you know, if you're taking any of these drugs, including the HIV medication, all you are doing is putting your life back into the zone of kind of normal or average.
Kecia Johnson: Right.
Jeff Galvin: You're not taking mind-altering drugs. No, you're taking something that gently balances chemical activity in your brain so that you can kind of deal with things the same way that everybody else deals with them, feel the same amount of emotion over stuff, instead of, you know, over sensitivities or, you know, circular thinking, or you know, kind of depressive cycles. That's what it's all about.
Jeff Galvin: So that's in the book. I should shut up and let you talk about it here. That's not my own opinion. What was your journey through that? You know, so you had two, it's not like you had a couple of reasons, you know, to feel depressed. One was, you know, you had to let go of the diva thing, right? Because not meeting your own expectations for yourself is depressing, right? And overthinking that. Yeah. And then you had this diagnosis. I don't know whether you know the book covers the whole time frame, but what did you do to take hold of that part of your life and to make that kind of progress?
Kecia Johnson: Well, I've been dealing with mental health issues since I was younger. I just didn't have a name for it. I had panic attacks and anxiety for years. I'm an only child, so it felt like it was always this level of excellence that I had to try to achieve. So I would constantly be in my own head, constantly overachieving, but still because of my anxiety.
Jeff Galvin: Yeah, I can relate to that. I had really successful parents, and I thought I had to be perfect.
Kecia Johnson: Yeah, that's how you feel like you have to be, you know, and um, your parents…
Jeff Galvin: At least I had a brother and sister, right? That I could compare myself to. But that's amazing. Like, if you're an only child with that feeling, the only other people you have to compare yourself to are adults who had a whole lifetime to achieve, right? And you know, unless they just happen to be sensitive to it and be like, "Hey, relax, Kecia. That's, you know, you're getting way ahead of yourself here, and we're proud of you just the way you are."
And what parents have time for that, especially, you know, when I think about the last generation, my parents, you know, they had to go from survival to that level of achievement, right? If anything, they thought I needed to be that driven, because how was I going to survive if I didn't have all the skills that they had? Wow, yeah. Okay. You're blowing my mind here because I'm just, like, I'm with you on all that stuff.
Kecia Johnson: It's just not talked about. And, you know, so many now when I look back, and even when I address my mom now, she just looks and she's like, "Yeah, you're right. Maybe we should have talked about it more or maybe you should have brought it up." And I'm like, "I literally have been navigating and suffering for a while, but yeah, there's no name for it because, again, universally but culturally, we for sure don't talk about mental health."
Jeff Galvin: I know, yeah. That's, again, I hadn't really thought about that, but that's very interesting. And, you know, you're still young compared to me, but at that time, 22 years ago, and before that, the situation was even worse, wasn't it? Hopefully it's improving, but I feel like sometimes we can't even take that for granted.
Kecia Johnson: There are so many more dynamic advocates who are out telling their story and speaking. It's crazy because when I have people still to this day look at me like I'm foreign, and I'm like, there are so many HIV/AIDS advocates out there on TikTok or on Instagram sharing their story, but it's also not the top thing that people are going to say, "Hey, let me go to TikTok to find somebody talking about HIV." It’s not something you run across. So even now, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done.
Jeff Galvin: Well, I mean, it seems like almost on every front where there's a stigma, there is a ton of work to be done. Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes it's one step forward and two steps back. That can be really discouraging when, for some reason, you're talking to an audience that just can't handle the stress right now, so they are unwilling to really even learn at that point and to open their minds and consider the realities of these things.
Jeff Galvin: Okay, so then the impact. Let's get to the empowerment part. So, you have these women empowerment panels that you participate in. Do you lead these things or do you participate in them? Is it sort of like a support group or what kind of topics do you discuss and what are the outcomes of these meetings?
Kecia Johnson: Awesome question. So, it's a combination of all three, of all five. To actually be a part of a panel, or I have been doing tours over the years to where I'll go city-to-city and have empowerment circles or empowerment gatherings where it's about self-love. Prior to the HIV diagnosis, I identified self-love and self-care with what it looked like - I look pretty, I look good, so I am good. And that's a vast majority of women and men. Men are told that they cannot be vulnerable, and they just gotta show up just because.
In these empowerment events, it's for women, but it's also for anyone in between to understand that you have to empower yourself before you can engage in anything. Whether that's running a business, saying that you want to find a life partner, a husband, a wife, or in between, or anything, you have to have some sort of self-mastery, not perfection, but have some sort of self-mastery to say, okay, these are the things that I need to work on, even though I need to work on them, it's still okay, and learn how to nurture those things. Because all those inner workings are components and pieces that are going to help you be able to run a business, be a mom, be a wife, do all the other things that we externally want to do, but we're not internally ready yet.
Everyone asks me, how did you get through having AIDS and being in the music industry, and this and that, and to be very quite honest with you, I have empowered myself since I was little. All I had to do was play with myself and talk to myself, right?
So, you know, that kind of manifested itself into me understanding that no matter how far I fell, I'm still amazing, right? And it's going to take a little bit for me to get up, but I also need to figure out what are those things that are ticking within me that are like ticking time bombs that I need to deflect. And once I admitted that, I continued to empower myself, strengthen myself, not perfect myself, no one's perfect, but it helps me be able to achieve those dreams past having AIDS, past mental health.
Jeff Galvin: Yeah, it's sort of like looking at yourself realistically, it sounds like. So you accept the strengths and the weaknesses, you tell yourself you're good enough, right? Like, "I can go ahead, I don't have to wait till I'm perfect to start whatever the next part of my journey is." I can't say that I've ever had a challenge in my life that's like getting diagnosed with HIV, but I do know that I've had a lot of very difficult things happen to me, and you can't relate to somebody else's, but also I think when people like you come forward like this and really talk about your experience, the HIV starts to demote in everybody's head, like, "Yeah, that's not even the biggest deal," like, you know, in terms of life, right? You take a pill, you suppress the virus, you're not contagious, you have kids, did you have kids that are HIV-free?
Kecia Johnson: Yes, my daughter, she's a healthy four-year-old.
Jeff Galvin: There you go.
Kecia Johnson: You know, so and people just feel like life is over and it's just like people have no idea. Like HIV is like the bottom of the list of things that I have to navigate. Like cancer was way more of a doozy than HIV.
Jeff Galvin: Yeah, that's right, and think about the number of people that are touched by cancer or have an immediate family member touched by cancer. Absolutely right. And life is full of challenges, and life eventually is going to get you. So enjoy it while you have it. It's not, none of us are going to go forever.
Kecia Johnson: For sure.
Jeff Galvin: Well, on that note, what sort of advice do you have, just general advice for people or women specifically living with HIV or dealing with a cancer diagnosis or just facing challenges in life?
Kecia Johnson: Definitely, everything starts with the self, and moreover don't be misconstrued by what you see. And to elaborate on that, perception is reality. Oftentimes we see the exterior, the outside world, social media, and it makes us feel like we can't be who we're called to be or who we're destined to be. And that's even with the HIV diagnosis. We're either told that, you know, life is not meant to last long for us, or we can't be loved, or even with cancer, you know, once you're in a certain age, you're not going to make it through.
And you know, I am the complete epitome of what a person tells you in the beginning of life. You don't want these things. You want to eat healthy, you want to do this, you want to do that. And all of it has happened to me. And I'm still, even with cancer, being diagnosed at stage 3B and going to 4 and being in hospice, I'm here cancer-free, no evidence of disease.
Jeff Galvin: Way to go, congratulations!
Kecia Johnson: Thank you so much. You start with kind of empowering yourself, and even in a sunken place, right? Because I think people, you have to, you know, talk to yourself and motivate yourself. I'm telling you, in the darkest of places, just a simple sentence of "I got this," "I'm a conqueror," "I'm empowered," just small little sentences in the darkest of moments can help get to that next moment. As a business person, as a person who's navigating HIV, anything, you have to speak to yourself in a nurturing, healthy way before anything else can blossom in your life.
Jeff Galvin: That is great advice. Like in medicine, one of the things that we see is there's a placebo effect, if you believe you're going to get better, and it's like 35 percent, right? So you give people like a placebo drug for their cancer and you tell them, "oh, this is a cure," and there's an aberration in the data amongst the people who just have that positive attitude, who believe that they can get through this crisis, who believe what the doctor is telling them. Sometimes that's why bedside manner is so important. And you're saying, you can have that self-talk…
Kecia Johnson: Yes.
Jeff Galvin: …you can have that positive attitude, you can say those few words for yourself as you face any challenge, whether it's cancer or something else, right? And you can improve your odds, right? And you can make it through, yeah, and your story is an example of that. Wow, you know we could do a show on every single point you brought up.
Jeff Galvin: Is there anything, you know, in kind of closing up today? You know, I really appreciate you spending all this time with me. Is there anything that you're working on right now that you'd like to tell people about? Because your book, let me look right into the camera for this, you're watching this thing, go get that book. It sounds fantastic. I’m running out right after this interview to get it myself. But you know, that's a really important story arc. No wonder that book has been popular. But anyway, you're working on anything else that we should be aware of?
Kecia Johnson: Yes. So, I've been on this cancer tour, which is called "Cancer Could NEVA", which is my new book that's available on barnesandnoble.com, or you could just Google, and you'll find it. And it's really my whole cancer journey and how I spoke life to myself to get through it.
It's seven chapters. In each of the chapters I have prayers, I actually have smoothies and different playlists and song lists that I had that got me through cancer, and everything that we kind of talked about about self-talking, you get a walkthrough of exactly how I did that. And on this tour, I'm literally going city-to-city, I'm talking to cancer survivors and honoring cancer survivors.
I started it last year, April 2022, and Tabitha Brown actually hosted the first one, and it was awesome. And she said, "This is something that you need to do, because people need to see that you can get out of it." So, you know, we're five cities, and my goal is to just keep going city-to-city and inspiring people. But we're letting them know, I'm HIV positive, and yes, it did get colorectal cancer, but I got through it as well.
So that’s really my main thing, is now, you know, to just give back. Like it's been put on my spirit to just give back through my story and go city-to-city, empowering others, and that's what I'm doing.
Jeff Galvin: Yeah, having purpose is something that's very satisfying too, right? I mean, it sounds like you have found something that's giving back, you know, that is fulfilling as well and empowering to the people in the audience. But somehow there's a little bit of it that's empowering to you as well, right here?
Yeah, I find that the work that we do trying to cure disease, sometimes that's, you know, a big part of why it's so fun to go to work, because I'm pursuing something not necessarily just a hundred percent for myself, right? You know, I'm not just making a living, I'm trying to lift other people up and you know, help to ease their burdens. And that is just, I think it's a wonderful quality that humans have, that empathy where we could actually take away some joy from the fact that we help someone else as opposed to you know, just always trying to survive. So that's cool, and I hear that's going on every day, at least you know, when you go out and you talk about cancer or HIV.
Terrific, terrific interview. Is there anything else I didn't touch on that you'd like to cover, you know, before we give you one final thanks for showing up today?
Kecia Johnson: No, that is pretty much it. Those are all of the questions. I mean, anybody just feel free whoever is navigating HIV or a cancer diagnosis, I'm here for you. I'm actually producing a hotline that will be able to call in to where you just need to get through the moment, because I understand how traumatic cancer and/or an HIV/AIDS diagnosis can be. I'm here, so feel free to look me up, click on the link. I'm always available and I'm always accessible to help someone through to the next moment.
Jeff Galvin: So kind of you to offer that vast experience to help others, and if you don't mind, we'll put some information about you in the notes for this video, and so people can get in touch with you or see some of your things online and take advantage of that kindness. Thank you, and thanks again for being with us today.
Kecia Johnson: Thank you so much, it was an awesome conversation. Thank you.