Grammy-winning rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis is known for its humanitarian approach to rap. Foregoing stereotypical lyrics glamorizing violence and disdain for women, the duo has carved an all-inclusive niche for itself in the tough landscape of hip-hop.
Wednesday morning, Ryan Lewis furthered that loving image by appearing with his mother on “CBS This Morning” to discuss her 30-year battle with HIV. He also talked about the family’s 30/30 Project, which supports the cause of making HIV treatment available in disadvantaged communities around the world.
Lewis and his mother, Julie, talked to Ben Tracy about her initial diagnosis and her fear that she might have infected her loved ones.
Julie was diagnosed with the disease in 1984 through a blood transfusion after she had difficulty delivering her first child. At the time, blood was not routinely screened for HIV. More than six years later she found out her donor was HIV-positive. At that point she had already had two more children, including Ryan.
Three to four terrifying days ensued as she waited for blood test results to see if she had infected her entire family. Fortunately all three of her children and her husband were negative.
Still, at 32, Julie was told she had three to five years to live.
“And I remember being—having periods of fear almost, that fear that your mom’s just going to kind of be gone,” recalled Lewis who, at 6 years old, told everybody in their small community of Spokane, Wash., his mother’s secret.
“I told my second-grade class,” said Lewis.
“He did. He told everyone,” said Julie.
“You know, I told the lady bagging the groceries ... at the Albertson’s,” Lewis continued.
“She’s checking our groceries...and he goes, ‘Does she know that you have AIDS?' And I was, like, ‘Well, I guess she does now,’” said Julie.
To celebrate his mother’s 30th year of survival, Lewis said that the first 30/30 Project health center will be built in a village in Malawi where more than 1 in 10 adults has HIV or AIDS, and the nearest medical care is a two-hour walk down a mountain.