President, Brookshire Services Unlimited
LaJoyce Brookshire’s life story is the stuff TV movies are made of. Smart overachiever moves to New York City, builds an accomplished career in media and publicity, falls in love with a dashing, handsome man. Marries. Discovers a dark, dark secret.
Eventually, there’s a happy ending. At the moment, though, more than ten years after she uncovered her first husband’s unconscionable deceit, Brookshire is determined to bring that dark secret to light. In her new book, a self-published memoir called Faith Under Fire: Betrayed by a Thing Called Love (read an exclusive excerpt on pg. 22), she chronicles her discovery that the man she trusted married her knowing he had AIDS –– but didn’t bother to tell her. Even more profound, Brookshire says her late husband’s mother and sister also kept his secret. According to Brookshire, the three of them –– mother, son and sister –– conspired to hide the truth so he wouldn’t die alone.
“I needed to write this book because after more than 10 years of silence, looking at the rate of African-American women becoming infected –– primarily through heterosexual transmission –– I could no longer remain silent,” says Brookshire of her decision to share this intensely personal story. “There are so many signs women could be alerted to if they knew what they were looking for…”
Brookshire says those signs include extreme homophobia and selfishness. “[He was] spending money for himself like he knew he was going to die,” says Brookshire in hindsight. “Never having a care about putting away for tomorrow, as if there would always be the endless well to dip in.”
Faith Under Fire is the Chicago-born writer’s third book. Her first, the “novelized” version of the hit movie “Soul Food,” was published by Harper Collins in 1997. Though the book sold 180,000 copies, Brookshire says her experience with the major publisher was disappointing. “I had to plan my own tour for that and raise my own money,” she says. “I got four national sponsors. I sold most of those books hand-to-hand. Twenty-five cities, 40 events.” With her second novel, Web of Deception, she eschewed the major publishing route and went independent, duplicating the model she’d used for Soul Food. She says her sophomore effort sold 100,000 copies. She plans to follow a similar path with Faith Under Fire, using print-on-demand services from Author House.
“My attorney was a little concerned with me going with print-on-demand. She said the story is too important, I need it to be taken seriously in the publishing business,” Brookshire recalls. “I said, you know what, let the publishing business come to me. This story has sat in every publishing house, has been to every Black editor and many others, and not one of them thought it worthy enough as a body of work to be published…They’re publishing Black erotica by the handful…The publishing industry is falling victim in many ways to what they think Black people want to read…But there are some of us who want to read things that truly help us, empower us and set us free.”
The former publicist says she pulled the agonizing story of Faith Under Fire from the journals and diaries she’s been in the habit of keeping since she was a kid growing up in Chicago. A habit started by her childhood sweetheart, who’s now her husband. “When I was 12, he gave me a diary for Christmas of 1975,” says Brookshire. “He could have bought anything else in the store with his $10, but he chose a diary. Then that was the staple gift, the diary and the stuffed animal… If it weren’t for him giving me those diaries I probably wouldn’t have any stories.”
Brookshire’s storytelling abilities and her vivacious personality (her classmates called her “Radio”) jump-started her career in communications while she was still in high school. The Chicago PBS radio station, WBEZ, held citywide auditions for a two-year course that would have students produce a weekly radio show. Brookshire was one of just 15 chosen out of thousands.
Bitten by the media bug, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in speech and Spanish from Eastern Illinois University before moving to New York to work in radio. She started as a television sales assistant at Blair Radio in 1984 and then moved onto Sheridan Broadcasting Networks where, as an entertainment reporter, she covered the party scene –– every night –– for the syndicated show, On the Beat. During the day, Brookshire taught writing at a specialized arts high school until the program lost its funding and she turned to radio full-time. Sheridan promoted her to programming coordinator in 1988 and she helped produce a popular syndicated show called Top 30 USA, hosted by BET VJ Donnie Simpson.
When Sheridan moved its operations to Pittsburgh, Brookshire chose to stay in New York. She used her severance package to start Retnuh Relations, a publicity, programming and production firm. She worked extensively with not-for-profit clients, and a successful event she coordinated for the National Urban League got the attention of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. She took the research and advocacy group on as a client and became their director of communications and marketing in 1993. Ironically, she was working with the Commission when she learned her first husband had AIDS. Working for an AIDS advocacy group while dealing with the discovery of her husband’s condition was a blessing in many ways, but eventually it became overwhelming and she had to leave. “I could no longer do AIDS at home and AIDS at work,” she says.
Brookshire joined W&W Public Relations, where she spent a year as a senior account executive handling artists such as George Howard, Men at Large and Sean Levert. While she juggled music industry publicity at work, she battled her husband’s illness at home. During her time at W&W, Brookshire’s husband became permanently disabled (she cared for him until his death in spite of his deceit). When he was hospitalized for weeks at a time, Brookshire leaned heavily on her boss, PR maven Patti Webster (who is a deaconess and the daughter of ministers). “Patti’s family saved my life. I literally slept on their couch so I could be at work. I would go home to the Poconos three times a week, and stay on their couch three days a week.”
From W&W she went to Arista Records where, as a publicity director, she worked with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Kenny G, Toni Braxton, Usher and the roster at Bad Boy Entertainment –– including the late rap legend, The Notorious B.I.G. In fact, Brookshire had been with the rapper in Los Angeles for several days leading up to the fateful weekend of the 1997 Soul Train Music Awards (riding, she recalls, in the vehicle in which he was shot). After the awards show, though, Brookshire had had enough of L.A. She gave Biggie her passes to the “Vibe” magazine party and took a flight back to New York. By the time she got home, the rapper was dead.
Before she could descend into depression in the aftermath of the shooting, though, Brookshire got a call from her literary agent with the news that she’d been hired to write the Soul Food novel –– as long as she could get it done in five weeks.
Brookshire returned to consulting over the past several years. She did another stint with the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and worked with ClearChannel Radio Tri-State. Last summer, she did marketing and community relations for the Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts, a $25 million facility near her home in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.
These days she’s preparing for a 30-city book tour for Faith Under Fire. There are plans to do 10 of those cities with Brenda Stone Browder, author of On the Up and Up and ex-wife of On the Down Low author J.L. King. There’s also talk of a Web of Deception movie. Primarily though, Brookshire, is crafting a new life for herself. She goes to bed early, teaches dance, is an active member of her church, enjoys horseback riding and is a doctor of naturopathic medicine –– she earned for the degree through an intensive study group while pregnant with her daughter, Brooke. “I keep saying that I quit the entertainment business,” Brookshire insists. “I’m no longer a publicist. I’m no longer doing those kinds of things. That’s my other life. My new life is that I’m Gus’ wife. I’m Brooke’s mommy. I am a naturopathic doctor and I’m an author.”
You can obtain Faith Under Fire: Betrayed by a Thing Called Love at www.LaJoyceBrookshire.com or at a bookstore near you
www.takielabynum.com February 2008
Faith Under Fire A Memoir
This memoir is nothing short than an account of a miracle.
LaJoyce Brookshire fell in love, hard, as any woman would when bouquets of flowers greet her at home and work on a weekly basis. Dining at expensive restaurants becomes a typical weekend tryst. Brookshire is rendered defenseless as her beau monopolizes her heart. But soon after they marry, he begins to sporadically reveal pieces of his true self.
Gradually, Brookshire observes more disturbing behavior while in the company of her husband. He has bouts of anger and fits of rage that are contrary to the gentleman she deemed as her “Prince Charming.” Throughout the narrative Brookshire hears whispered warnings about her husband, but love, as they say, is blinding and her loving eyes did not see.
Until one day Brookshire’s husband becomes extremely sick, and after many failed attempts of trying to remedy his ailments, finally she had no choice but to take him to a hospital. Forty days later the doctor informs her that her husband has AIDS.
Each time her spirit is at a low ebb, she hears the voice of the Lord softly speaking, “Don’t let Me go,” and she didn’t let go…ever.
Brookshire allows God to demonstrate His power through what may be some of the weakest moments in her life. Her faith remains as did she. She stays with her husband, just as she vowed to do, in sickness and health, for better or worse. After she discovers that he and his family knew long before she had ever met him that he was HIV positive, she does not gleefully hope for the elongated suffering of her husband. She remains at his side. After she discovers that his plan from the beginning is for her to become infected and for them to die together, she does not stoop to the lows of vindictiveness, nor does she allow her heart to become rooted in bitterness. She continues by his side. Not many could forgive such selfish acts of deceit, but Brookshire finds the courage through that of a greater power not limited by earthly restraints. In spite of her hurts, disappointments, and ultimate betrayal by the man of her dreams, she is longsuffering, enduring, and forgiving.
This book put me on an emotional rollercoaster, it made me laugh, cry, hope, and thankful. Brookshire has a remarkable story to share. She takes the harshness of her reality and envelopes it within the pages of Fire Under Faith. She exposes hard truths and openly deals with circumstances that others hush. This book will definitely make someone who’s eager for marriage think twice. Take a valuable lesson from Brookshire, it just may save your life.
Reviewed by: Takiela Bynum
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Madison County Carrier ~ Enterprise Recorder Tallahassee, Florida
Best-Selling Author Wows Crowd
By Michael Curtis
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Although best-selling author LaJoyce Brookshire was invited to speak in Madison on February 2 at NFCC as part of an AIDS awareness project, it was her insightful discussion of family habits and health advice that left the audience clamoring for more and later standing in line to buy her book. Brookshire’s extensive expertise and celebrity on both topics is due in large part to her surviving a marriage to a man who had and hid his AIDS from her until he was in a very advanced stage.
Amazingly, Brookshire not only survived the relationship; she forgave her husband for the deceit, nursing him until his death. And more unbelievable than that, she tested negative for HIV, attributing it to her faith and lifestyle, especially the immune strength brought about by her diet.
Brookshire practices naturopathy, which is a system of therapy and treatment relying on natural remedies, such as sunlight, air and water, and of course diet. “You are what you eat, literally,” she boldly stated.
She also recalled a front-page story several years before her marriage to her late husband regarding AIDS awareness in minority communities that was mostly ignored. Conversely, she has made it a life mission to ensure others do hear the cry so many missed and have suffered immeasurably from the lack of information.
Brookshire has also since remarried, and now, among other professional pursuits, offers health counseling. And based on the audience response to her lecture, she is making a serious impact, truly changing lives in the process.
“Our entire existence is part of glorious cycles that the Creator set in motion. What we eat, what we do or don’t eliminate, what we drink and our sleep are all part of this process. They all have a tremendous affect on our health. I studied under a physician, a full medical doctor who also practiced naturopathy, and he would ask patients questions like, ‘So, how long have you been doing diabetes?’ implying that it is a personal choice to contract chronic illnesses. In other words, it’s our choice and it’s almost completely preventable,” Brookshire explained.
Following her colorful, yet very persuasive, discussion, which including detailed references to aspartame, water and pork, also included cautionary comments regarding parasites, hormones and antibiotics. In the end though, she created very practical marching orders for the audience to take with them, but not before a thirty minute Q&A. It actually appeared that the question period would have gone on all night if organizers were not forced to cut it off for time’s sake.
As audience members discussed specific ailments, Brookshire interjected features and symptoms of the various illnesses and habits in question, astonishing listeners with her matter-of-fact insights and her way of getting at the bigger picture. More importantly, she offered solutions. The impact was so considerable that a large portion of the audience rushed to purchase her book, which she graciously stayed to sign.
Organizers and hosts included Preston Mathews and Deveda Bellamy from the Department of Health, as well as Rev. Robert Holmes and Jerome Wyche from the Drug Prevention Coalition. “We are so fortunate to have someone of LaJoyce Brookshire’s notoriety speak with us so intimately right here in Madison,” Mathews noted. Staff writer Michael Curtis can be reached at email@example.com.
Sharing Black Life, Statewide
Web of Deception
LaJoyce Brookshire, ‘Soul Food’ author, tells of betrayal she felt after learning of husband’s ‘down low’ life
BY STARLA VAUGHNS CHERIN
In the 1980s and 1990s, not many people fathomed the thought of purportedly straight men having sex with men. Many still looked at HIV/AIDS as a gay White man’s disease. But when author LaJoyce Brookshire discovered her husband was dying of AIDS, the idea was all too real.
Brookshire’s professional success as author of the book “Soul Food” and the first African American to novelize a major motion picture did not diminish her pain. It has taken her more than 10 years to heal from her husband’s betrayal.
During that time, she has heard and talked to many women who found they were in the same situation—in a relationship with a “down low’’ brother. It prompted Brookshire to tell her story in “Faith Under Fire: Betrayed by a Thing Called Love,” her first non-fiction work.
Married four years before her husband’s death, Brookshire said that when she met him he had just been in the hospital for bleeding ulcers. He was 31 and attributed it to a bad marriage and stress on the job. When he died, his T-cell count, one of the measurements used to gauge the body’s ability to fight off infections, was four. (People without HIV infections have ‘normal’ T-cell counts of 700 to 1,000.)
“That means you have to count back 10 years,” Brookshire told the Florida Courier. “I realized he knew all along and had been trying to infect me. He had some idea we were going to die together, but God had something better in store for me.” Later she found out his mother and sister had known all along.
Brookshire looks back at what she now calls “signs” that indicated her husband was living a ‘down low’ lifestyle.
“He was extremely homophobic. My gay friends never got a chance to put their “gaydar’’ on him because he would always leave. He never wanted me to be out of his sight. Putting a wedge between family and friends, eavesdropping and the disappearing acts.
“It doesn’t sneak up on you. I was able to piece it together,” she said. “Sores that won’t heal, shortness of breath, colds, bronchitis, recurrent pink eye, diarrhea. There are so many opportunistic viruses that prey upon a person with HIV or AIDS.”
He never told her about his sexual orientation, and Brookshire had no concrete proof her husband had sex with men. She would remember the times when two of his best friends would come to town and he would stay out all night with them, sometimes not coming home and going straight to work. After his death in 1995, she never saw these best friends again and they didn’t come to the funeral.
“All of the women who were caught say they were wined and dined and swept off their feet,” Brookshire said about those who admit they were in “down low’’ relationships. “That is a smokescreen and most likely in the excitement of it all, you are not paying attention to a lot of things.’’
Brookshire said a marriage proposal came five months after meeting her “honeydip.’’ She realizes a lot of her focus was on planning the wedding, not on the relationship she was entering.
“When you’re planning a wedding, there is no courtship,” she said. “I was swamped. Your mind is on the details of the wedding. I saw he had a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality. He was sweet and then the opposite. Constantly complaining. Nothing was ever good enough. He would rant and rave to get his way and his road rage was out of control. Several times I got out of the car and took the subway home.
“This is how crazy I am about getting married. I would make excuses for him and his behavior. Like he’s under stress. Telling myself, ‘Once we get married it will all go away. Everything will change and get better.’ Lie, lie, lie, lie.”
It got worse. On their honeymoon in Hawaii, the campaign to destroy her self-image and self-esteem began.
“He complained about the way I looked, my clothes, my hair, my weight and mocked me because I brought books with me. He was sadistic and selfish; it was all about him,” she added.
Brookshire also takes responsibility for the part she played in allowing her love and desire to be married overshadow what was in front of her.
“I was ripe and ready for a relationship. When they prey, they prey on those that are the most needy. I was 28 and had always been the bridesmaid and
never the bride. He looked to be everything he wasn’t,” she said.
“I thought he was a victim of his own promiscuity. He had proved to me over and over again that he was a womanizer. I thought, ‘See, this is what happens to you.’ It wasn’t until shortly before he died, I found out he had known all along, and I wanted to kill him.”
‘Down low’ gospel truth
J.L. King, author of “On The Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of ‘Straight’ Black Men Who Sleep with Men,” says most men on the “down low” don’t know or care if they have the HIV virus.
At the National Conference on African Americans and AIDS and Prevention last year, King said those men say, ‘I sleep with men, but I am not bisexual, and I am certainly not gay. I am not going to your clinics, I am not going to read your brochures, I am not going to get tested.’
“I assure you that none of the brothers on the down low are paying the least bit of attention to what you say,” King explained.
The 67 percent of African American women with HIV contracted it from heterosexual sex. The two ways that the virus is contracted heterosexually to Black women is through intravenous drug use and African American men on the down low.
King writes in his book that many of his partners were pillars in their local churches.
“There are gospel conventions throughout the nation for churches. There is one for ushers, Sunday school departments, music departments and ministers. These events allow men to meet men and to have sex while away from their hometowns. Many midnight concerts turn into affairs where brothers are cruising each other. I’ve been there, seen it and done it,” King states in his book.
Brookshire says before marrying her husband, he always thanked God he met her.
“I was impressed by that because God has always been a special part of my life. I call myself ‘God’s Girl’ because He delivered me through this with my physical and mental health. I did not contract HIV.” She later married her childhood sweetheart and the two have a daughter.
Chosen for ‘Soul Food’
Brookshire credits her writing success to her love of reading and journaling.
“My husband Gus gave me my first diary when I was 12. That was in divine order. It is where my real storytelling skills began to come out. I wrote blow by blow what my friends and I did. You don’t realize that something you do habitually as a child can become a profession,” she said.
“They do this with White movies all the time. This was the first time it had been done for a Black movie,” she said.
Career started early
She always wanted to be an author and received her first recognition at 11 when she won the Ebony Jr. Magazine prize for a story about friendship. She jump-started her career in communications while she was still in high school.
The Chicago PBS radio station, WBEZ, held citywide auditions for a two-year course that would have students produce a weekly radio show. Brookshire was one of just 15 chosen out of thousands.
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in speech and Spanish from Eastern Illinois University before moving to New York to work in radio at Sheridan Broadcasting Networks as an entertainment reporter, covering the party scene for the syndicated show, “On the Beat.’’ Later, as director of publicity at Arista Records she promoted performers like Aretha Franklin, P. Diddy, TLC, Tony Braxton and Usher.
In 1997, she was chosen by HarperCollins Publishing to write the novelization of “Soul Food” from the movie script on the strength of her novel, the suspense drama “Web of Deception.” Though the book sold 180,000 copies, Brookshire says her experience with the major publisher was disappointing.
“I had to plan my own tour for that and raise my own money,” she said. “I got four national sponsors. I sold most of those books hand-to-hand. Twenty-five cities, 40 events.”
With “Web of Deception,” she eschewed the major publishing route and went independent, duplicating the model she’d used for “Soul Food.’’ She sold 100,000 copies. She plans to follow a similar path with “Faith Under Fire,’’ her third book, using print-on-demand services from Author House.
“My attorney was a little concerned with me going with print-ondemand. This story is too important. I need it to be taken seriously in the publishing business,” Brookshire said “I said, ‘You know what, let the publishing business come to me.’ This story has sat in every publishing house, has been to every Black editor and many others, and not one of them thought it worthy enough as a body of work to be published.
“They’re publishing Black erotica by the handful. …The publishing industry is falling victim in many ways to what they think Black people want to read. …But there are some of us who want to read things that truly help us, empower us and set us free.”
Faith Under Fire
Betrayed by a Thing Called Love
a memoir by bestselling author
LaJoyce Brookshire, the best-selling author of Soul Food and Web of Deception, takes a pause from fiction to share a true story more shattering than any novel. It’s her story. Her candid memoir, FAITH UNDER FIRE: Betrayed by a Thing Called Love (Karen Hunter Publishing/Pocket Books; January 2008) tells Brookshire’s story of survival against the odds and courage in the face of a troubled relationship and a terrifying illness.
LaJoyce Brookshire was married to a man she thought was her very own Prince Charming…but then discovered a veiled side of him…He knew he had AIDS but kept this deadly secret from her until his body betrayed him. The frightening statistics of HIV/AIDS infections in this country only prove that there are too many secrets in too many relationships—and many of them are harbored by families living in fear, ignorance, and denial. With the statistics raging even higher for African American women, LaJoyce boldly shares her truth after more than ten years of silence. Standing on her incredible faith, then as now, LaJoyce says it’s time to stop lying, start telling the truth, and begin to live life with the understanding that only the truth will make you free.
Standing on her incredible faith, then as now, LaJoyce says it’s time to stop lying, start telling the truth, and begin to live life with the understanding that only the truth will make you free.
As author of the novel Soul Food, she is the first African American to novelize a major motion picture. She was chosen by HarperCollins Publishing to write the novelization from the movie’s script on the strength of her first novel, the suspense drama Web of Deception. Due to LaJoyce’s expertise in marketing and publicity, Soul Food has out sold every movie tie-in book ever written.
About the Author
LaJoyce Brookshire is the bestselling author of the novels Soul Food and Web of Deception, and has contributed essays to Souls of My Sisters and GhettOver Girls. An ordained minister, a doctor of naturopathy, and master herbalist, she resides in the Poconos with her husband, childhood sweetheart Gus, daughter Brooke and dogs Phoenix and Lexi.
Karen Hunter Publishing, an imprint of Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, is a New York-based company that provides a multi-platform forum for all book publishing-related activities. Its divisions offer varied services, including branding, writing, publishing, talent management and marketing.
Pocket Books is an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Simon & Schuster, a part of the CBS Corporation, is a global leader in the field of general interest publishing, dedicated to providing the best in fiction and nonfiction for consumers of all ages, across all printed, electronic, and audio formats. Its divisions include Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Simon & Schuster Audio, Simon & Schuster Online, and international companies in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit our website at http://www.simonsays.com. If you wish to reproduce a photograph of the author and/or the book jacket or cover, you can retrieve a high-resolution digital file at http://resources.simonsays.com.
For press inquiries, contact:
Erica Feldon, Publicity Manager
Pocket Books/Karen Hunter Publishing
FAITH UNDER FIRE: Betrayed by a Thing Called Love
By LaJoyce Brookshire
Karen Hunter Publishing/Pocket Books
On sale: January 2008
March 5, 2008
By Angela Bronner, BlackVoices.com
LaJoyce Brookshire has certainly been through the fire, but thanks to her unrelenting faith, came out unscathed.
The former power publicist turned author (she novelized the black film classic Soul Food and also wrote Web of Deception), ordained minister and doctor of Naturopathy, recently released a powerful piece of non-fiction — a deeply disturbing, though increasingly common story, about courage, AIDS, marriage, deception and ultimately, redemption.
In Faith Under Fire: Betrayed By a Thing Called Love, Brookshire shares the riveting true-life account of marrying a man with full blown AIDS, and using her rock of Gibraltar faith to get through an ordeal which would have broken most. Brookshire opens up with BlackVoices.com.
What was your process in coming to write the memoir?
I wrote ‘Faith Under Fire’ primarily because the statistics for HIV infections were continuing to rise. And I heard my story over and over more times than I even cared to. So it was time that I broke the silence and stopped trying to keep the privacy of a dead man, and let people know some information that could possibly save their lives; because for the people who are most at risk, I have the most information.
And who are the people most at risk, black women, married?
Black women are highly at risk, yes . And heterosexual women of all walks of life are highly at risk.
How did you maintain your Christian faith when you knew that this man knowingly had AIDS and still slept with you?
You know what it is, honestly…because I didn’t know that I was being deceived until he was almost dead. It was easier for me to maintain my Christian faith, because I was staying true to my wedding vows. And I thought back to the day of my wedding, when the only tear I shed was when I said, “through sickness and in health”. That was the only tear. And we ironically got married on World AIDS Day in 1990- December 1st. That’s how I was I able to hold on and just through the grace of God honestly.
Do you recommend that people in marriage get HIV tests?
Absolutely, I think now, its become routine. HIV can slip up on you and you might not ever know. I think what health systems should do is make blood testing mandatory to obtain a marriage license again. When I got married in 1990, to this guy, it was mandatory in 28 states, and now its only mandatory in 14. In the life and times of which we live now, why are there less? It is the responsibility of each individual to gather information; before you swap spit, swap information. No test, no touch! But we say that in theory and it’s all fine and good, but here I am in this situation when Mr. Tall, Fine, and Handsome came strumping up in my life sending roses to my job every week, and my nose was open like a Mack truck. There’s nothing you can tell a woman when she’s in love.
I know you do the book tour with churches, how is the feedback from the church?
Oh incredible. And here’s the deal, this is why I do this. This is why I stand naked and not ashamed because of the people who are able to see themselves in me. And for the people who are harboring a secret too, and who are now able to be set free. People who are willing to stand in their truth, no matter what it is. After I finish speaking, especially at churches, women just come up and they’re in tears. They come to whisper in my ear and they can’t say anything, but I know what they want to say. One women at a church in New Jersey got the strength to go to her pastor’s office when I spoke there in February, but since November she’s been harboring the fact that she found out that her husband was HIV positive. She didn’t even tell her mama! After I spoke and told my story, she told her pastor and he handed her a piece of paper with my number on it. And he knew he didn’t need to check with me, because that’s why I’m there. I’m being really bold about what I’m saying so that people can become honest and come clean about the truth and where you are. The truth is the only thing that is going to stop this epidemic…and I’m trying to help do that.
Has there been any backlash?
From his family, yes, his sisters. Outside of that, no. There’s been backlash from people, who feel that I preach abstinence… well I do. I don’t think that you can put your faith in a condom. You can’t put your total and complete faith in a condom. I ask this…If you know the person has AIDS, do you still trust the condom? The answer is generally no! Why then, do you trust it and you’re not really sure? You’re rolling the dice.
So abstinence outside of marriage?
Abstinence outside of marriage… or until you find out enough information. We don’t want to hear that… because it’s very hard to hear.
How do you feel about the Down Low phenomenon?
Here’s the thing, I never caught him in bed with anybody. But like I said, I have is compilation of lies. And how I came up with my conclusion of him being on the down low is because women who have caught their men in bed, we say the exact same thing and have the exact same story… exactly. We have the disappearing acts, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behavior, or the sweeping you off your feet like Prince Charming. The monopolizing all of your time and he disappears with certain male friends in particular, you know you can name a couple of friends who are not accounted for after they die. He sabotages your relationship with the other friends so that its just you and him riding off into the sunset. Lying about mostly anything to get their way, its narcissistic and sociopathic behavior because they prey on women who are straight. And they are willing givers of oral sex, without wanting to receive it. A gay friend of mine put it quite succinctly by saying, because, once a man has given another man oral sex, that a woman’s jaw strength is just not the same.
Do you think being more open or accepting of homosexuality is part of taking the stigma of hiding away?
The gay friends that I have, who acknowledge that they’re openly gay, men and women, I embrace them, because they are standing in their truth. The people who are tipping, whatever kind of tipping that you are doing… if you’re a man and you’re tipping on the other side of town with another woman, even that is down low behavior. But certainly if you do it with the opposite sex, you’re not standing in good truth. I have already embraced this community because I have personal friends of the community So the stigma then doesn’t lie within them, the stigma then lies within you.
Why then do we have to wait until catastrophe happens, meaning one person getting infected with HIV for it to all come to light that you’ve led a duplicitous lifestyle and for it to all blow up in your face? Then you’ve got to backtrack and make notifications and see who you’ve been with- or not -because some people are not even doing notifying others. Saying you have HIV is just not something that people can easily say to others.
So how involved have you become in just educating yourself about AIDS? Do you follow it in the news or not necessarily?
I wouldn’t call myself an expert. I do keep very close to the statistics and I’m very close to the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. I have been probably their most returning employee. Seriously, I have worked there, like five times in my career. And because of that relationship, it keeps me close to the epidemic. And it keeps me close to the stats, every time I need new stats, they make sure I get them. I would consider myself a health expert now because as a naturopathic doctor I’m an expert on keeping the immune systems healthy.
For more on Dr. LaJoyce Brookshire, visit Karen Hunter Publishing.
To buy Faith Under Fire, please click here.
To Commemorate World AIDS Day – What is Your Status?
Dr. LaJoyce Brookshire
December 1, 2018
It was December 1, 1990 and unbeknownst to me it was the 2nd Annual World AIDS Day. To me it was quite simply supposed to be the happiest day of my life… my wedding day. And little did I know that the man to whom I was pledging my vows to God in front of family and friends had AIDS.
In commemoration of World AIDS Day, I want to have a real talk about HIV/AIDS that is still a thorn in the side of Communities of Color 30 years later.
The man I fell in love with married me knowing he had full-blown AIDS and did not tell me. He wined, and dined me, and proposed to me five months into our relationship. Can you say RED FLAG RIGHT THERE??? Because the end of our getting-to-know-you phase ended and the planning-my-fabulous-out-of-town wedding began. There were so many things that were wrong about it all and I just chalked it up to Wedding Stress. The moment we got married and were on the honeymoon in Hawaii he flips. I mean, I do not recognize my new husband. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behavior continues for two years until he gets sick and is diagnosed with full blown AIDS. Now the doctors all think I’m infected too and they had the audacity to make an attempt to convince me of a fate that did not belong to me. I had to burst in to a full-on rant like a Black woman from the South Side of Chicago to get those folks to take my blood so they could tell me I was negative. And, I am negative…Hallelujah!!!. I know I am God’s Girl and I am covered by His Grace AND I have a Rock-Solid Immune System. On that day, and in that moment, there was no doctor who could have convinced me of the contrary.
I stayed with my husband, doctored on him even though I was not yet a doctor, got his T-Cell count up from 4 to 100, and changed his diapers until he died in Hospice. It was not until he died that I discovered my husband was on the Down Low.
I had some incredible people holding me up in The Village I have created for myself and one of them is Debra Fraser- Howze who was then the CEO/Founder of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. You can read the detailed account of it all in my memoir FAITH UNDER FIRE: BETRAYED BY A THING CALLED LOVE published by Karen Hunter/SimonShuster publishing.
I said all of that to say HIV and AIDS is an indiscriminate disease which cuts across every single geographical, socio-economic, ethnic, gender, culture, and religious line. It leaves devastation and heartbreak in its wake. Many think that the medicines can control and spread of HIV and AIDS because people don’t look sick like they used to and it is under control but, nothing could be further from the truth.
The latest HIV/AIDS statistics from the CDC reports:
- African Americans represented 12% of the population, but accounted for 44% of HIV diagnoses. African Americans have the highest rate of HIV diagnoses compared to other races and ethnicities.
- Hispanics/Latinos represented 18% of the population, but accounted for 25% (9,766) of HIV diagnoses.
- Women accounted for 19% of HIV diagnoses primarily attributed to heterosexual contact
- African American women were seven times as likely as white women and eight times as likely as Hispanic women to become HIV-positive due to black men who have sex with men and yet do not classify themselves as gay.
I AM ALSO VERY CONCERNED about the college population who is overlooked … that even with a warning from The New England Journal of Medicine which stated a decade ago, “…The problem is not getting any better and it needs to be addressed with increasing emphasis.”
Why then have the conversations about HIV come to a screeching halt? Why are the students not being educated about the fact that STDs are a precursor to HIV?
The college-aged demographic tends to use condom protection less than any other demographic especially when coupled with alcohol and drug use. Over 45% of college aged students who have been binge drinking fail to consider the usage of contraceptive aids when engaging in sexual intercourse. These bad decisions can be traced to immaturity, alcohol, and a lack of education and prevention programs. This reckless behavior makes a clear case for patterns leading to HIV. On the heels of Charlie Sheen’s HIV announcement to the world in 2015, the urgency for HIV education is paramount.
Race also seems to be a factor in HIV/AIDS infection. African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV infection; accounting for 55% of all HIV infections reported among persons aged 13–24. Whhhaaat??? These are our babies!!! I do NOT understand the silence!
This is a right now conversation that needs to take place with college students in the form of an HIV/STD Education and Prevention Program I have created entitled: “What You Don’t Know About HIV/STDs Can Kill You”.
As a community we can work collectively to halt the numbers of this preventable disease. Here are some tips on what we can do to stay well:
.Before you Swap Spit… Swap Information like, “Do you know your status?”
.Ask questions…a lot of them. I have 200 of questions in the back of my book. Please don’t be like me and become so enamored with the “Cutie Pie” in front of me. I did not complete my due diligence. We do more investigation when buying a new dress or a new car than we do with the one we are going to get in bed with. STOP IT!!
-Use a barrier EVERY time you have sex, but, do NOT put your FAITH in a rubber device that leaks, expires and must be kept at room temperature.
Question: How many of you know what is room temperature?
Answer: 68-72 degrees.
You better play Nancy Drew because she took the time to INVESTIGATE!!
-Keep your Immune health in Tip-Top shape so that you can defeat any disease coming your way.
-Pray without ceasing… Pray that you have the discernment to see what is not evident. And Pray that you have the strength to walk away upon discovery of the truth. Only the truth will Make you Free. And if I had to say Amen, I think I’d put one right there!