My name is Connie L. Johnson. I am a daughter, a sister, a niece, and a friend who lives with HIV. I was quite familiar with HIV/AIDS when I was diagnosed in October 2002 because my mother had been diagnosed with the disease several years prior. After a long painful fight, AIDS won and my mother, Gladys Bell Dean Johnson, passed away two days shy of her forty-fifth birthday on January 26, 1995. She was so ashamed of the diagnosis that very few family members and none of her friends knew of her illness until her funeral service was being planned. When I received a positive diagnosis seven years later I immediately vowed to myself and God that I wouldn't remain silent like my mother did. I instantly began disclosing to family and friends. Many were shocked about the diagnosis but most of them were emotionally supportive and encouraged me to stay in care. Although I have experienced depression, sickness, poverty and homelessness since being diagnosed I am happy to say that today I LIVE positively!

I enjoy singing, writing, reading, laughing and spending time with a host of family and friends who love me unconditionally. After several failed attempts to finish college, in 2008 I earned a B.A. in Child and Family Studies and I'm currently working towards earning a M.A. in Social Justice and Community Development at Loyola University Chicago.

Why Connie wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I would like to be a part of A Girl Like Me because I am aware that there are thousands of women like my mother who would rather suffer in silence than to confront the possibility of negative stigma and marginalization that often accompanies disclosing. I would like to offer my voice to the world on behalf of women around the globe who have yet to discover their own voices.

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