Awakening a gentle giant
Johnny’s Story

When pressed even more about why he thought his life had been spared, White, a 39-year old, HIV-positive, African American male, responded, “I don’t know, but He has something in store for me.”

On a recent, blistering hot July afternoon, White was biking down one of the main thoroughfares of north Minneapolis. The next thing White remembers is waking up in the hospital 12 days later with no memory of anything during that 12 day period. According to White, he suffered some kind of [acute, or near fatal heat] spell.

For White, who stands a towering 6’3” tall, the spell had the effect of making him grateful that his God wakes him up each morning. “I plan on staying close to God”, said White.

White is no stranger to health challenges as he has been living with HIV since 1994. However, White seems as unfazed about his HIV status as he is about being in a coma for twelve days. Quizzed about how being HIV-positive has affected his life, White replied, “It don’t affect me at all.”

White, who does not work a regular job and is on permanent disability status, is currently on an HIV/AIDS medication regimen where he uses the African American AIDS Task Force to assist him in monitoring his medication intake.

“They got programs over there [at the AAATF]. It’s all right with me the way they got it right now”, said White when asked to describe the services he receives from the African American AIDS Task Force. “They help with housing, bus cards and transportation.”

Before falling ill in the month of July, White helped staff an AAATF health education booth at this year’s Juneteenth Festival. “It’s good ‘cause I worked the Juneteenth festival. I got the chance to talk to a lot of people. I asked if people knew how to protect themselves. People did not know about female condoms or dental dams.”

Assisting folks is something that White has always wanted to do. When asked what he always wanted to do when he grew up, White said “I wanted to be a drug counselor or facilitator or speaker.”

White says he plans to talk to kids about the importance of using protection so that they do not contract the HIV/AIDS virus. “I would talk to them about HIV….I wouldn’t tell them I had it because everything is confidential. That way you can’t run around and tell everybody. That’s why I’m signed up at the AAATF. ”

As long as White is awake, it’s a good bet he’ll be helping someone.

At the request of the featured client, the name has been changed in this story.