Archive for HIV

CeeCee Was My Friend… Christine McDonald

Posted in #PaulthePoke, Christine "Clarity" McDonald with tags , , on April 17, 2020 by paulthepoke

A couple of years later, after I had gotten off the streets and had my son, I received a call. My son was a few months old at the time. CeeCee was on the phone. I still don’t know how she found me. She was in hospice care and was dying of AIDS. I knew she was HIV positive. I had known a couple of women who worked the streets who were HIV positive. It did not change that they were my friends.

CeeCee had contracted HIV in L.A. She had been gang raped and was addicted to heroin. Her family had disowned her. She had been HIV positive for 17 years. She said she wished to infect every man who tried to buy sex. She carried so much hurt, so much brokenness, and so much anger.

After her phone call, I visited her daily for months at the hospice, sneaking her cigarettes, only one each day I visited. I also sneaked in candy bars and soda. I had thought many times, Gosh, if my friend is going to die and you guys can’t do anything to save her, what’s the big deal about a cigarette?

I’d sneak in her stuffed animals and also bring treats for the girl she shared a room with. She was dying, too, but she didn’t have visitors, so we often shared my daily visits with her.

The brain lesions caused CeeCee to drift in and out, so she wasn’t always aware of my presence. She called me one last time when she had a moment of clarity. It was dinnertime at our little home. She said, “Christine.” It was the first time in the 15 years or so I had known her that she had ever called me by my real name. “I’m going to meet my Maker,” she said.

I was at a loss for words. What do you say to someone who matter–of–factly states that they’re going to meet their Maker? What do you say to someone who knows they are about to die? I struggled to remain calm for my friend.

I asked, “Have you made peace?”

“I have no regrets,” she said to me, “no guilt for anyone I infected.”

I went to see her the following morning. She was unaware of my presence. I held her hand and spoke to her, telling her stories of our past experiences in life. Then I went home, holding onto CeeCee’s smuggled–in cigarette, just in case tomorrow’s visit would be better.

About an hour after I left, I got a call. It was the hospice. CeeCee had died. The nurse said it was almost as though she had waited for that daily visit from me before she allowed herself to drift away. Then the nurse said, “I wish everyone here had an Ellie in their lives.”

I took the cigarette from my jacket pocket and put it in the trash. By the time CeeCee passed, everyone who was HIV positive there, all those dying people, knew my name. They would wave and say, “Hi!” I’d smile and say, “Hello!” After getting to know so many of the folks in the hospice, I tried to become a volunteer there. But I was a convicted felon, a criminal, and the law wouldn’t allow me to come in to do such a thing.

I don’t know if CeeCee spoke to God before her death. I know her family never let go of their shame over her life as a prostitute or her contraction of HIV, even though it resulted from the violent acts of seven gang members. Her family refused to put down their pride and see her one last time. In fact, they didn’t even come to pick up the body after she died.

CeeCee lies in a markerless grave in Kansas City. I share her story because she was my friend. Both her life and death were a tragedy. By my sharing about her, others can know of her and that she was cared for. I just wanted to give her a voice.

I often wonder how different CeeCee’s life—particularly her last days—might have been if her family had been able to look past the shame and embrace her with arms of love. I wonder the same of the many people in that hospice who spent their final days isolated and alone. Where were the other Ellies? Where were the people who could love them, freely and unconditionally? And what difference might that kind of love have made in their lives and hearts?

We all have people—whether close to us or at a distance—who have made choices we disapprove of or have experienced horrific things we don’t know how to deal with. We can hold them at arm’s length and shun them, pushing them further into isolation, hurt, and shame. Or we can draw them near with arms of love, saying, as Jesus says, “Come as you are.”

Contact Information:
Christine C. McDonald

“Love your neighbor, all of ’em.” -Christine Clarity McDonald

Love, Condoms, & Moral Indignation

Posted in Christine "Clarity" McDonald, Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2018 by paulthepoke

Christine McDonaldFeaturing Christine “Clarity” McDonald

Christine is the current Director of Outreach, Advocacy and Curriculum for Restoration House.

Amos 5:21 I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. -God

A few years ago, I operated a street outreach. We went to the streets and parks where I myself had existed for nearly two decades. We took sandwiches and basic hygiene items to the women and men in that area.

I was contacted by a TV news show who wanted to join us. The news crew had done food service during the holidays, but always in an artificial environment. They had never actually gone to the streets where the many who avoided the long feeding lines dwelled.

We brought bean burritos from Taco Bell that night, as well as water and condoms. As I handed the condoms out, the reporter stopped everything. She turned off the microphone.

I knew the deal. I had heard it before from women of faith who had joined us on these outreaches. The ladies who had so much church. I suppose, that they forgot about the human in us all.

I listened as they ranted all the reasons she couldn’t be a part of us giving out condoms. I had heard all the reasons, so I’d just hear them again. My mind raced, thinking maybe she had a new reason. She didn’t; nobody ever did.

“We are promoting their actions of prostitution” or “We can’t promote prostitutes to sell their bodies out here” were reasons commonly cited. But I was geared up and ready. Goodness knows I had given this speech at least fifty times.


If you are one of those individuals who might have concerns about giving out condoms in ministry work, then please continue to read this. Give this a fair shot of thought. Consider for a moment that maybe your moral indignation isn’t as productive as you think it is.

We all know by now that I was prostituted. As a formerly prostituted person, my voice provides a different perspective. During my exploitation, I was rarely in a position to go to the store to purchase condoms. If I was working for my “man” or “pimp,” my priority was to make my funds as fast as I could so I could eat and avoid drama. To state it bluntly, condoms were a luxury I couldn’t afford.

Additionally, it wasn’t uncommon for a trick or John to pay an extra twenty bucks to have sex with you without a condom. Statistics tell us that about 68% of all tricks are married or in a “committed” relationship. Do you think their loved ones at home have any clue they are paying for a prostitute to have sex with them, much less without a condom?

The prostitute might turn twenty dates in a 24-hour period, not to mention the times she has been raped. Keep in mind that her man or pimp has other girls he is having sex with – other prostitutes who are having unprotected sex with many others. Are you doing the math here?

A girlfriend or wife learns she is pregnant, and during this joyous announcement from her doctor she is also informed of another piece of highly unexpected – but far from joyous – news that she is now HIV positive. This is an extra “gift” contracted from her husband or her boyfriend – the john who purchased sex from a prostitute. Of course, this means he is infected as well. So, stop and think of how this woman and her unborn child’s life are forever affected by the man’s urge to purchase sex from a prostitute.

Please note. I am not saying all prostitutes have HIV. I worked the streets for nearly two decades and am HIV free! But I have friends who have died of AIDS and some who live with it daily.

This is yet another reason we must end the purchase of human beings. This cycle of exploitation and suffering affects not only the purchaser and the prostituted individual. There are also innocent victims who are affected who play no role in the event yet end up suffering from it.

If we are truly attempting to connect to the humanity of this complex issue, then offering condoms for the prostituted persons we encounter is not only responsible help; it is loving help. Withholding something that could save a life simply because of our moral objections to its use doesn’t stop the activity. Nor does it convict the buyer or seller of sex. All it does is place additional conditions on love and help, therefore devaluing both love and help until neither is recognizable.

HIV is only one of many damaging effects these acts have on unintended victims. The collateral damage abounds in so many ways we can’t easily see. If we are going to truly help, we must be careful of misapplying our moral objections in ways that further compound, rather than help, the problem.

Our ministry is not only for the buyer and seller, but the unintended victims whose lives can be unknowingly changed forever by someone else’s choice to pay for another human being for their own sexual gratification.


“Love your neighbor… ALL of ’em!” -Christine “Clarity” McDonald


Collateral Damage

Posted in Christine "Clarity" McDonald, Culture with tags , , , , , , , on July 6, 2018 by paulthepoke

Christine McDonaldFeaturing Christine “Clarity” McDonald

Christine is appointed by the Missouri Attorney General for the Trafficking Task Force.

“For every woman and girl violently attacked, we reduce our humanity. For every woman forced into unprotected sex because men demand this, we destroy dignity and pride. Every woman who has to sell her life for sex we condemn to a lifetime in prison. For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women. For every woman infected by HIV, we destroy a generation.” – Nelson Mandela

Collateral damage is what we call the loss, injury or victims incurred by an action or event who were never intended to be involved. Many times, when we venture out in a helping capacity, we have our sights squarely focused on the population we serve. Yet oftentimes, those individuals we serve touch the lives of many we may never encounter.

Compassion and love at their best grow and extend indefinitely. The things we do out of love for others can have a massive ripple effect across time and space. Likewise, the things we don’t do can carry greater, far-reaching ramifications. What if one simple, yet sometimes controversial, moment of service could save a life? Conversely, what if a misapplied moral objection costs a life?

When we consider human trafficking, exploitation, and prostitution, we tend to recognize the purchaser/exploiter as well as the person being used. However, there is another population that is inadvertently affected yet rarely lands on our radar. Sometimes our narrow view of the impact and our tightly-clung-to moral objections have unintended consequences.

human trafficking

When we think of serving and how we serve, the most important thing we can do is put on the love of Christ and remember how much He loves and would give all for just one person. We have to ask ourselves, is making a moral statement that will inevitably be lost more important than the individual?

Jesus was well known in His day for spending His time with those viewed as the biggest “sinners.” When the religious leaders of the day verbally lashed against Him for this, He told a parable about a shepherd who had one hundred beloved sheep and one ran away. In the parable, the shepherd left the 99 to go after the one. The Son of God did not withhold His presence from the “sinners” to make a moral statement. Instead, He left us all with a clear example to follow. He made it crystal clear that every one of those “sinners” was invaluable to Him.

Even while knowing His days were limited, Jesus didn’t spend His time with His family and loved ones. Instead He chose to spend time among the untouchables of His day. And though He – the perfect, Holy, God of the universe – had many moral objections to their actions, He didn’t let those moral objections become the focus or stand in the way of an opportunity to touch their hearts.

“Love your neighbor… ALL of ’em!” -Christine “Clarity” McDonald



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