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City Council Speaker Johnson pens emotional post about being HIV positive, addiction issues

October 01, 2018 - 3:45 pm

By David Caplan

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson took to Twitter Sunday and penned an emotional thread about being HIV positive -- which he was diagnosed 14 years ago this week -- and conquering his addiction issues.  

"Tomorrow is the first day of October and 14 years ago this week I found out I was HIV positive," Johnson wrote. "I was 22 years old and in the moment and for the days and months and even years following my doctor giving me that news I lived with shame and fear and anxiety. I lost my job and health insurance a couple of weeks after I seroconverted. And I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. My doctor gave me the number and address for an organization in Chinatown that I hadn’t heard of. It was called @APICHAHealth."

Johnson continued, "I remember walking from Chelsea to Chinatown nervous and scared. I walked in and they sat me down with this incredible woman named Shefali. She became my case worker. She was vibrant and loving and reassuring and with zero judgment just compassion. She found me a doctor..she got me enrolled in ADAP (AIDS Drugs Assistance Program). But it still took me a long time to be able to talk about this with anyone except Shefali. She would call me and check in and make sure I was going to my appointments.."

Johnson then admits that his "drinking and drug use took after this," admitting, "I think I was self medicating to push away the pain and shame and remorse."

But he added, "Today I am healthy. I am sober for over 9 years of drugs and alcohol. I have good health insurance and the stability in my life that allows me to not to have to worry about paying my rent one month but not being able to afford my medicine."

"Today I do not live w/ shame. For years it ate me alive. Today I try to use the position I have the honor and privilege of serving in to help others who struggle and to hopefully lessen the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and I do it on the shoulders of all the brave men and women who came before me. The ones who put their lives and body on the line which, in the end, when I found out I was positive, is why I had access to life saving medication.:

He ends the thread thanking the generation before him for its activism.

"We lost a generation of gay men. I didn’t have to live through those years. Thank you to ACT-UP and all the brave activists who made all of this possible for me. I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for you. And thank you Shefali for your kindness and compassion. You helped me more than I can express. With no shame. Just honor. Love, Corey."

Johnson's openness about living with HIV and conquering soberiety was positively received on Twitter, with dozens of users responding their well wishes. 

Among those was city council member Mark Levine, who tweeted, "With so much that's upsetting in the news these days, thank you @CoreyinNYC for sharing this inspiring story..."

Some other reactions: