My name is Tracy Lamar Johnson Jr. I was born in Orlando. I relocated to Columbus, Ohio, when I was 12 years old. At age 14, I ran away from home because I got tired of the physical, mental and verbal abuse. During this time, I was homeless. I was eating out of trash cans, and I started selling my body. On August 15, 2005, I found out that I was HIV positive. I didn’t know what HIV was, but I tried to commit suicide several times because I thought I was worthless and didn’t have anything to offer to the world.
But there were several people who invested the time to show me that I had a voice and that I have power and that my life was worth living. For the past 15 years, I have been a strong advocate and started support groups in my house. I’m on a fixed income, but I cook and buy all the food to give people a safe haven to be themselves.
I have traveled around the world to many national and international conferences. I made it my duty to cause a domino effect in people lives and let others know that they are valued and they are important. And that their voice matters.
How would you describe yourself?
I am kindhearted. I love making people smile and laugh. And I put others before myself.
What is your greatest achievement?
Graduating from high school at age 21 and getting my medical assistant certification. Also having four HIV-negative children (their mother is also negative).
What is your greatest regret?
The way I disclosed my HIV status to my mother.
What keeps you up at night?
Wondering how I contracted HIV, who gave it to me and why.
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
Everyone’s views on stigma and discrimination.
What is the best advice you ever received?
You only have one life to live. Live your best life, and don’t worry about what others say or think.
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
What drives you to do what you do?
My four children drive me to do what I do every day. One day, they will be the age I was when I got diagnosed, so I want to educate everyone about HIV.
What is your motto?
“Test it before you sex it.”
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
I wouldn’t grab anything except my children because all material things can be replaced.
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
I would be a peacock because they look so simple, but when they spread their feathers, you see all the beautiful colors.