Just*in Time: March 2014

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Hello Justin,

I have seen your Web site and it looks like you are a knowledgeable person about HIV and HIV prevention. I had a possible exposure with another male; I was the bottom partner and condoms were used, but it was my first experience so I immediately got scared. Anyway, I went and got tested and was negative at three weeks and again at six weeks with a fourth-generation HIV test, which is conclusive at six weeks according to the clinic I went to. But just to be safe I tested at twelve weeks with the OraQuick oral swab and used your video to guide me and the result was negative again. So, do you believe that I should test again?
—Miguel

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

Let’s not go overboard here! I do believe in getting tested every three to six months.

There are several questions that you might ask after your potential exposure. How do you think you were exposed? When people talk about exposure, a lot of times they are thinking about unprotected sex. Some people think it means having sex with a condom. I bring this up because you can’t assess risk unless this question is answered and it’s not clear from your letter.

I see that you did use condoms, which is very effective when protecting yourself against HIV and other STIs (sexually transmitted infections). You are probably fine. You did a very good thing in being proactive when getting tested for HIV. You’ve consulted your clinic and they advised you correctly.

I understand the stress of having sex for the first time and the stress if you were exposed to HIV. But let’s think calmly and rationally about this. It was your first time. Things are confusing right now and you’re scared, but it will pass with time. We have all had scares like this and nobody is immune to fearing the unknown. But the best advice I can tell you that was given to me is: “Why stress about something you can’t do anything about?” My husband is the one who taught me that. Meaning, don’t stress yourself out about whether or not you are positive or negative. Keep living your life and get tested every 3 to 6 months. According to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation:
“Antibody tests give a positive result based on antibodies to HIV, not the virus itself. 2-8 weeks (up to 2 months) after infection, most people will have enough antibodies to test positive. 12 weeks (3 months) after infection, about 97% of people will have enough antibodies to test positive.

“Antigen tests show a positive result based on the presence of the virus. These tests are more expensive than antibody tests, so are not offered in as many places. 1-3 weeks after infection, there will be enough viral material for a positive result.

“Polymerase chain reaction tests also test for the actual virus. This type of test is often used for testing the viral load of HIV-positive people, as well as testing babies born to HIV-positive mothers. 2-3 weeks after infection, there will be enough viral material for a positive result.”

Justin,
I was just wondering: Did your HIV provide additional problems when adopting a child? Just curious because this is something I wish to do.
—Prince

Good question! Being HIV-positive, I didn’t think I would become a biological father at all. So adoption was my option. I also did have the option of sperm cleansing and then going through an agency to find a surrogate to carry my child, but that costs thousands of dollars—so it wasn’t a true option for me. My husband and I decided on adoption. On January 30, we adopted our son, Lundyn, who is a seventeen-year-old LGBT ball of hormones.

But to answer your question: No; I thought that having HIV would be an issue but it wasn’t. My husband and I went through the state of Maryland for our adoption. (Going through an agency would also cost money, but the state gives more benefits as far as education, food and clothing allowances, etc., for the child.) The only thing they checked for when it came to my HIV infection was to make sure I was undetectable. I believe that the state wants to make sure that my HIV is under control and being undetectable proves to them that I’m living healthy with HIV.

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].