During this year’s season of giving, we are thrilled to spotlight poet, author, playwright, screenwriter and gospel writer, Twana Lawler. We thank Twana for writing the special story below and for impacting lives affected by HIV/AIDS with her “Tragedy to Destiny” perspective.
We are thankful for Twana for having the voice to speak out about HIV/AIDS to help others.
I’m Twana Lawler, a proud African American woman who is living with AIDS. I am 54 years old and thankful to be alive and I want to share with you all a little about my life.
At the age of twelve, I lost the one person who meant a great deal to me: my Dad. He committed suicide and that was one of the most horrible points in my life. My oldest brother, who was eleven at the time, felt the same pain I did as well. Words cannot explain how affected we were, but that was the beginning of a life of turmoil.
At fourteen, I felt as if I was alone. I had no one to comfort me as a mourning child and no one to talk to about how I was feeling. My mother was there, but the connection wasn’t. Even having a stranger living in our home, who was my mother’s ex-boyfriend, didn’t help either. He was the man who would come out of the shower and listen at my door every night. He would try to embarrass me in front of my friends and I just wanted out. But, as a child, I didn’t know anything about life. I didn’t know about the streets, because I grew up in the suburbs and I quickly learned, which helped in my avoidance of going back home.
Years finally went by and I coped with the aftermath of my traumatic teenaged years. I wanted to build a family, something I could be proud of and to hold on to. As I pursued relationships, I soon find a man who would give me what I thought I needed. I noticed settle things about him that made me uncomfortable. My love was wasn’t there any more and as years went on, I left my husband, but he and his family kept my children award from me. They wouldn’t let me talk to them or anything, and at that time and as a young mother, they thought I wouldn’t fight. It was a battle, but the judge finally gave me permanent custody of my daughters, but the trouble didn’t end there.
Years later, I was raped in my own home, which devastated me for years. I soon turned to drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, and ten years later, I was date raped. Thereafter, I had a hysterectomy and my life changed drastically. I cried because of the pain and shouted out to God for an answer. I felt his words whispering to me, “You are going to be okay, you are going to be alright.” I instantly began writing poems and during this time, I started filling ill. I went to doctor appointments after doctor appointments and finally one doctor revealed what I didn’t think was possible considering I had been celibate for 10 years. The physician told me that I have symptoms similar to HIV. I immediately said “No I don’t. There’s no way. I am celibate and have been for TEN years.” The following week came and my physician confirmed that I was HIV positive. I was devastated and knew a “minister” I was involved with gave it to me. I wasn’t sexually active with anyone else, but the “minister.” This was 13 years ago and at that time, I refused medical attention and was slowly dying.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, dementia and severe depression. To live through these experiences was a miracle. The doctors told my daughters to prepare for my funeral. But I didn’t die. I am healthy, alive and happy. I am blessed! I had the courage to write a book and I am now working on an HIV/AIDS ministry as well as my own publishing company. My viral load is close to zero and CD4 went from 20 to 220.
I am a survivor! And I am incredibly thankful. I want women to understand that we fall sometimes, but we can get right back up. Living with HIV was not in my plans for myself, but from this experience, I want to inform women all over the world that we can live our lives as best as we can. Also, it is important it is to protect ourselves and our partners.
So, to all the women out there: Stand tall, keep your head up and keep those red pumps on!
Note: If you would like to order a copy of Twana’s book My Life: Tragedy to Destiny, order a copy at www.mylifeautobiography.com today.