Just*in Time: June 2014

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Just*in Time
by Justin B. Terry-Smith

Hey dear

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

My name is Eric and my family is from Jamaica. I’ve been positive for about eight years now. I’m not proud of it but I just wanted to tell you. Well, when I tell people they almost always compliment me on how good I look. I just tell them that I take good care of myself. I go to the gym, stay active, take my vitamins and take my HIV medications. I used to be able to get my medications for free when I lived in Antigua but now I can’t. They are so expensive here and I’m only here for a couple of years but I’m thinking about moving to Canada. I just wanted to give you a background of me and my life. But I do have a couple of questions. There are reports that say HIV is a conspiracy and that we are giving our money away to government and drug companies that just want to get rich off of us. They do not care about our well being at all. Have you ever heard of David Crowe?
—Eric

Well, well, well…yes, of course, I’ve heard of David Crowe, but many of my readers probably have not. So let me introduce him, shall we? He is what we call in the HIV activism and advocacy world an HIV denialist. Since denialism has more of a negative spin as a label, they want to be called dissidents now. But it doesn’t matter what they are called—they are denying that HIV causes AIDS.

David Crowe’s movement has done many a disservice by spreading his movement of denialism. The denialist movement has been known to go into nations that are not well educated on HIV. By doing this they are able to influence government officials into thinking that HIV medications are only toxic to the body and do not help with managing patients’ HIV. Crowe has traveled to many places, especially Africa, where he continues to spread his opinions about HIV. A lot of denialists do not believe that HIV is even a sexually transmitted disease. They believe that it can be treated by a healthy diet and exercise. Honestly, yes, it does help to manage your HIV by exercising and eating right, but it is not the only thing you have to do.

Taking your medications is very important and I know firsthand how hard it is to have to take them every day. They can be very expensive, but I’d rather take my medications every day than have my body and mind wither away because I decided that I didn’t want to take care of myself. If you want to stop taking HIV medication, I cannot stop you; all I can do is advise you to take them and see your doctor on a regular basis.

HIV is NOT a conspiracy; the real conspiracy is someone spewing lies to other nations or groups of people to be able to take advantage of them. This is something that needs to be addressed; David Crowe and his followers have cost many people their lives, especially in countries that do not have a lot of HIV education. These people who blindly followed Crowe are not able to see that there are other options. Crowe is wrong and, in my honest opinion, he should be jailed for the thousands of lives he has affected.

Eric, I have to warn you that I’ve seen friends deny the fact that they have HIV and decide to stop taking medication. My friends were my age and are now dead. I have to say that, if you go down this path and stop taking your medications, there’s a high probability of HIV overtaking you and turning into AIDS. Also, the chances of you being touched by more non-AIDS-defining illnesses are greater than if you were to stay on HIV medication. And I don’t want that for you or anyone.

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].