Just*in Time: June 2013

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Jus*in Time by Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin—
I’m twenty-seven years young. I contracted HIV on February 15, 2010, from a guy who didn’t tell me but then maybe I really didn’t want to know. As a child, I had neither self-confidence nor self-esteem. My parents moved me from school to school thinking that that would help the problem. I was a gay man and not the most masculine of men, but I was in a phase of trying to find out who I was and trying to fit in, which never worked.

Photo by Don Harris  © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved
Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved

It got worse. It got harder as I got older. Until last year, I didn’t like much about myself. I wasn’t trying at all. Becoming HIV-positive helped to change my attitude somewhat because it gave me a different lease on life. My mother says it humbled me completely.

My mother and I talk and she asks questions and makes sure I am doing all I can to help myself. My father is different now. We have a better relationship now after HIV than I had before. Now I am on a kind of journey, searching for my sense of self all over again.

I met a guy. He is ten years older and a nice guy. Well, we have been sexual for over three years off and on. He wasn’t the one who gave me HIV. He doesn’t know. I have pushed people away trying to not be in a relationship. I never thought I was ready. I always ask people about relationships and love….What’s it like to love someone or be in love? For the first time ever, I could see myself happy with him. I don’t know if I should tell him the truth. I am afraid he will walk away for good. I don’t know what to do. I am so scared because I think I’m in love but I don’t know if it’s an infatuation or hormones or HIV. He may be the only man who sees me for me. I don’t want to lose that part. This is really the first time we are communicating and that’s why I wonder more [about a possible future].

On your blog, I listened to how you met your husband. I wonder if that is possible for me.
—Dimitri

The funny thing about disclosure is that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Okay, let’s break this down shall we? Be very careful about what you are doing. In some states it is illegal not to disclose your HIV status to your sexual partners. People have gone to jail on even just a rumor of them not disclosing their status to their sexual partner. Also, make sure you take into account that he might be okay with you being HIV-positive but not okay with you not being upfront with him. There is also the factor that he might be mad at you for not disclosing. You will never know unless you are able to tell him about your status.

I suggest telling him in a very safe environment. Take it upon yourself to educate him if he is not educated. Be prepared for both positive and negative responses. LOVE is possible though you should have enough esteem in yourself to walk away in case this doesn’t work out.

There is someone out there for everyone. Sometimes it takes a little longer to find them. You are a very young man, and you have a lot of time for love. I met my husband around your age and I told my husband about my status the first night I met him, and he still wanted me.

Trust me, you will find that dream man you want—just take your time. Older men tend to have a better understanding of HIV, because they have been around to see the transition of different perceptions of HIV. If you think you are in love, love him enough to tell him the truth. Lastly, the more confidence and self-esteem you have the more comfortable you yourself will be with your own disclosure.

Justin B. Terry-Smith has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Now, with this column, Justin has found a way to give voice to the issues that people write to him about. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected]