Just*in Time: December 2014

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Just*in Time
by Justin B. Terry-Smith

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

Justin,
I don’t know if this is okay to ask you but I want to ask you anyway. We are friends on Facebook but we’ve never talked. I know you add people who you don’t necessarily know but at least know of your work, and that is all good with me. I’m even friends with your fan page and the Justin’s HIV Journal page, so I feel like I know you already.

Anyways, okay, have you heard of the new HIV prevention method that is a shot and shows a 100-percent efficacy rate? With all the things you’ve accomplished do you think you would prefer to be HIV-negative knowing that you may not have been so successful if you were negative? Also would you take an HIV cure?

—Poz Swimfan

Umm, WOW, these are all great questions and all are very loaded. But let’s take one question at a time.

If any of my readers don’t know, earlier this year a new HIV vaccination method now in clinical trials with macaques has thus far proven to be 100-percent effective in preventing transmission of a hybrid of simian and human immunodeficiency viruses. This proof-of-concept study is being led by researchers at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Rockefeller University in New York. If this prevention method is approved it would only have to be taken about three times a year vs. the currently approved pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pill, which has to be taken almost every day; is ninety-two-percent effective (in preventing the transmission of HIV), though some say ninety-nine percent; and is recommended with the use of condoms. With this new method, the shot lasted about five to ten weeks on average in the monkeys who were given the prevention candidate. My opinion: It’s one step closer to a cure, at least hopefully. The more and more we come up with vaccines for disease, the more and more there is a chance for a cure. I truly believe that one day there will be a cure; and yes, sometimes preventative vaccines come before a therapeutic cure.

Now, onto your second question. A really good friend said to me that I had never looked better in my life before I was diagnosed with HIV. HIV made me change my mentality on how to live my life as it’s very hard to face one’s self in the mirror when one only sees pain, well I have to do that so that I can strive to live for a better life. I do have to attribute HIV with helping me refocus on what was and is important to me, which is my family, education, and health.

HIV has, I will admit, given me a degree of success, but that only came after tapping the strength I had in myself to overcome HIV and other personal demons. I used to do some things that I would normally not do to get away from the pain I would feel. I then met someone who helped me through and had me believe in myself again and what I could do to help people. My children’s book helps children deal with their own disclosure, my column in a Baltimore newspaper helps the local community, and this advice column helps others around the world with questions about HIV/AIDS. If it weren’t for HIV, I wouldn’t be able to help others as much as I have. But who knows—if it hadn’t been HIV it might have been something else.

Most of us believe in some sort of higher power, and some of us are atheist. I personally believe in a higher power and all I know is that my higher power will get me through, whether the end is near or far. I take comfort in leaving my mark here on earth, being a husband, father, and trying to be the best person I can be. So, as you can see, it’s really not about my success but contributing to the success and empowerment of others that I take joy in.

Would I take the cure?

I don’t know.

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].