Dinetia Johnson

Photo – Halifax – Dinetia “The Fallen Angel” (CBC). AIDS Activist History Project Omeka Collection.

Dinetia was one of the first women that was involved in the coalition. She was very quiet, but very powerful. …

“When I became involved with the women’s stuff she was “the” woman who was HIV-positive and they had done a video at that time. She taught me so much. I mean she was very quiet, always there, and she was fierce. Her son, her family, very, very important to her. …

You know, she kind of would have busted all of the stereotypes at that time. I mean people hadn’t really considered women very much to be at risk or part of this, and she would have busted all of those stereotypes. Similarly to the early days, I think, with men, with women it was like, “Well, she must have worked the streets. She must have done drugs. Her partner’s gay…” You know, whatever. But she just had this quiet pride about her. I think she probably put up with a lot of crap before the rest of us showed up. By crap I mean getting that other perspective, that other lived experience.
Jane Allen (AAHP Transcript, p. 7)

Yeah, for some reason, Dinetia’s story has gone underground and I don’t know why.
Anita Martinez (AAHP Transcript, p. 26)

Photo – Halifax – Dinetia Johnson and Dayle Oxford. AIDS Activist History Project Omeka Collection.

She was very good at doing the personal story. She wasn’t the type to want to be involved in the organizational and that kind of policy stuff; that wasn’t her thing. But she realized, and it took a lot – well, it does for anybody, but especially from her background – it took a lot of courage for her to say, “Okay, I’m going out and I’m going to tell my story.” … I think it’s important to emphasize the fact that she was the first woman that came to the Coalition.
Eric Smith (AAHP Transcript, p. 26)

If you get to see the video, “Life After Diagnosis,” she says in there about how she wasn’t sure what to expect walking in because she knew the reputation of the PWA Coalition as a gay men’s organization. And so, she walked in and within a minute Fred Wells had given her a hug, and she said it was the first time anybody had touched her like that since she tested positive. And of course, it broke down all the stereotypes that she had right away.
Eric Smith (AAHP Transcript, p 26)

Image – Invitation – Halifax – Movie “Life after Diagnosis” AAHP Omeka Collection. 

She broke out of the family and came into town still a virgin. So, she went on her first date. And it was I think was with an African Canadian/American. Anyway, she went on her first date and while she was on her date… She went to the bathroom… She had a couple of drinks, that’s got nothing to do with anything, but she went to the bathroom and on the way to the bathroom, and it was a relatively new Sheraton Hotel then, on the way to the bathroom from the hallway or something, someone dragged her into a bedroom. They opened the door and just grabbed her and dragged her in. She didn’t report. She was so embarrassed and she blamed herself, so she didn’t report. But something was going on with her about a month later… She was with somebody that was beating on her or something – a new boyfriend – and she ended up at Bryony House. Anyways, so she knew something was wrong. She just wanted to be sure that she was okay, went to the doctor, got all these tests, and she said the doctor told me to call. She called and they told her… Now, this was at the height of the fear and the scare and the horror, and this doctor – I’m pretty sure it was Fraser at the North End Clinic – told her over that she had HIV, over the phone. They didn’t give her any backup, nothing, not a thing.
Anita Martinez (AAHP Transcript, p. 25)

Photo – Halifax – Dinetia and Guitar. AIDS Activist History Project Omeka Collection.

And the fact that she had children […] None of the kids were infected. She took every precaution there was. She was very, very careful. She wanted children more than anything else in the world. That’s when she was straight and she was new, and that’s all she wanted was to have children and raise them her way, instead of the way she was raised. Dinetia, when she started talking about that I said, “You know, chances are… blah blah blah” and we talked about it and she decided that’s what she was going to do. So, we respected that decision and it turned out alright. But once she moved to the Valley with those kids it was terrible. She never got treatment. I wish I had been up there because I would’ve gone with her and taken pictures… She said “AIDS” was written right across her file. I remember her saying that… Well, I was at the birth of her babies and… Oh, I’ve got some pictures. Yeah. Some pictures aren’t in there. So yes… She couldn’t have the babies in the Valley. She had to have them here in Halifax. So yeah, what are you going to do?
Anita Martinez (AAHP Transcript, pp. 28-29)

Dinetia Johnson… On her record, in the hospital in the Valley, she had AIDS written across it. So, every time she had a headache or anything like that, they said, “Oh, here. Take two aspirins.” They wouldn’t touch her. This one time she had passed out. She had a temperature and she had a bad headache. Again, they gave her aspirin and she ended up back in the hospital again. She couldn’t take it anymore. They put her in an ambulance and sent her down to the hospital. By the time she got here she was gone. […] She had meningitis. She was only 31.
Anita Martinez (AAHP Transcript, p. 24)