by Justin B. Terry-Smith
How are you? I really enjoy your videos and I admire your strength.
My issue is that I’m a twenty-one-year-old transgender female and I’m scared I may be positive. A couple months ago I got bumps on my left breast that turned into a scab; I scrubbed the scab off and my skin never healed. A couple days ago I had smaller bumps pop up (one turned into a scab) and the others are very tiny sores; I went to the urgent care clinic in my area and they didn’t even know what it really was. They labeled it dermatitis, so I let it go and, later, decided to get an HIV test. I was talking to my friend who was a nursing student and he said this condition normally occurs in people with HIV (I didn’t tell him it was me, though).
I’m scared because if I am positive, then this isn’t something that I want anybody to know. I want it to be a secret until the day I die. I’m used to being the pretty girl and getting a lot of compliments and attention and I know a lot of people would feel as though I deserved it or wouldn’t look at me the same anymore. I can’t tell my mother or father as they are very uneducated about HIV—they think you can get HIV from sharing a pizza with a person who has it, so imagine how they would treat me? I had a former friend who has HIV but we no longer speak and I don’t know if I could trust him with this because he is very open about his own status.
I know you’re a very busy person but, please, if you’re ever on-line, can you check on me every once in a while? You’re the only person I can talk to.
I’m doing fine, but it sounds like you’re in need of some advice. We will have to address one problem at a time.
Dermatitis is not caused by HIV. Dermatitis is simply inflammation of the skin; there are many things that can cause dermatitis. Some metals, fiberglass, rubber, perfumes, etc., can cause the inflammation. I know for a fact that I love wearing silver, but it is silver-plated material that makes me break out. Every time I wore a silver-plated chain around my neck, I needed cream prescribed by a doctor. Dermatitis can also be caused by outside irritants like bleach, soaps, detergents, and other cleaning supplies. It also can be caused by stress or a vitamin deficiency. Go see your doctor to get properly diagnosed and treated for dermatitis.
I know you’re scared, but my motto is: Only worry about something when there is something to worry about. You must get tested. Now, I know that is hard to do but you must do it. If it’s negative you will be okay. If the test is positive, then the earlier you know, the better. The more time that goes by that you are untreated for HIV, the more you open yourself up to infections and other complications from the virus.
It sounds like people around you are ignorant about HIV. I suggest if you are HIV-positive you may want to find a group of people that is supportive because you will need them in your network. Be careful about whom you confide in, but you must find support in groups of like-minded people.
Again, if the test is positive, you might want to look at it as another chance at life. Think about the different ways HIV will make you focus on your health and happiness. You will find solace as long as you focus on the positive things you get from this very experience. Life doesn’t stop because you have HIV; you have to live on for you and all the transgender men and women out there who are HIV-positive. Be an example of a healthy, HIV-positive beautiful girl that you know and I know you are, inside and outside.
You’re a wonderful transgender woman and fuck all the haters. Get up and get tested. Love you!
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@example.com.