Janet Johnson: Living an Exceptional Life with HIV


Janet Johnson, State Peer Mentor, Alabama Department of Public Health

When were you diagnosed with HIV and how did you react?

I reacted like most everyone back in 1985, stunned, shocked and thinking I was going to die within 6 months to 2 years. So I decided to die high on drugs because I had just watched my lover of 5 years die completely blind, wasted away, out of his mind and cursing God and I didn’t want to die like that.  

Do you have any advice for those unhappily living with HIV?

You are still living. Get involved. There’s nothing you can do now about your diagnosis but you can help someone else not to receive the same diagnosis. Get out of yourself and help someone else know what to do to stay negative.

Did you lose loved ones because of your HIV status?

No, I have been very blessed in that area but I have known many people who have lost loved ones.  

How do you personally make the best out of living with HIV?

I educate others and share my story with others. I feel that is why God has left me here this long, to be a witness of His grace and glory and to let people know that today you don’t have to die from this disease and it doesn’t necessarily have to go on to become AIDS but you have to do your part. Test, know, and link to care. Stay out of risky behaviors, help others along lifes journey to understand that HIV is for life and there are certain things you have to do to keep from becoming infected. I am a messenger about the disease and I tell the world my story so that maybe I can reach just one person and maybe prevent them from becoming infected.