Instagram model Gena Tew has shared a host of throwback photographs of herself hanging out for celebrities, in a bid to prove that she isn’t using her ongoing AIDS battle to garner social media attention.
The 27-year-old, who has more than 50,000 followers on Instagram and a further 480,000 on TikTok, has been documenting her health struggles in a series of videos on social media since going public with her diagnosis in March.
The heart-wrenching clip has been viewed more than 12 million times.
But as Tew continues to spread AIDS awareness to a rapidly broadening audience, she has faced criticism from detractors, some of whom have accused her of using her health issues to boost her profile online.
Responding to the accusations, Tew took to the video-sharing platform on Thursday to post a clip emblazoned with the words: “People keep saying clout but I been doing music but I been doing music/modeling [before] I got sick.”
She then proceeded to share photos of herself modeling and posing with a host of celebrities that appeared to include Nick Cannon, Taryn Manning, Trey Songz, Dave East, Davido, Jeffree Star, and Diplo.
Also included in her video montage was a screenshot of her having previously been posted on Chris Brown’s Instagram account.
Captioning the video, can be viewed in full at the top of this article, Tew wrote: “How mad did [this] make you??? [I’m] just human… AIDS DIDN’T MAKE ME FAMOUS.”
In recent months, Tew has shared a slew of videos on her health journey, including visits to doctors and posts from her home, where she revealed that she had lost sight in one eye and that her weight had dipped to a low of 65 pounds.
Thanks to advanced treatments, Tew has shown videos of herself having gained weight as she recovers from the worst of her health battle.
Last month, Tew answered a question on how she acquired AIDS, explaining in a video: “I do not know who gave it to me or where I got it, how I got it. All I know is that because I was so sick to the point of death, they said I had to have it for eight to 10 years.
“And in that timeframe, I was living in New York City and I was homeless. I did get raped a couple times—not something I like to talk about. I have had a couple free tattoos so it could have been a dirty needle, I don’t know.
“Do I know those people? No. Did I say anything when those things happened? No. Because I was naive and I was stupid and I was young.”
On March 23, Tew publicly revealed her diagnosis in a TikTok video after receiving questions about her previous stints in hospital.
“I think it’s about time I get it off my chest so that I feel better, the truth about why I’ve been in the hospital,” she said in the clip. “Unfortunately, your girl contracted AIDS. And for anyone saying that a pill should take care of everything, it doesn’t. I’ve been through hell and I’m still going through hell.”
According to Mayo Clinic, AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, “is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
“HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood and from illicit injection drug use or sharing needles. It can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you have AIDS.”
While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, medications can control the infection and greatly slow its progression.
“Access to better antiviral treatments has dramatically decreased deaths from AIDS worldwide, even in resource-poor countries,” Mayo Clinic states. “Thanks to these life-saving treatments, most people with HIV in the U.S. today don’t develop AIDS. Untreated, HIV typically turns into AIDS in about 8 to 10 years.”