Just*in Time: February 2015

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Just*in Time
by Justin B. Terry-Smith

How can one such as yourself who is HIV-positive dare to be proud of it? How do you promote unsafe sex practices being an HIV activist? Your delusions of grandeur are appalling and apparent. You tell people to be the example, but you are not setting the example yourself by being so open about your HIV status. Nobody wants to hear about HIV anymore anyways; Ebola can affect anyone, not just gays like HIV tends to do. And, yes, HIV is a homo disease.
—Precious Lee

Well, hello, Precious!
What a fitting name for such a pristine young woman (I will not call you a lady). But listen up and listen well: What I do

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

not promote is unsafe sex. I’ve never said that I’m proud to be HIV-positive, but I have always said I’m proud to know my status. By doing this publicly I thought it might help and somewhat comfort other people and encourage them to want to know their own HIV status.

What I do promote is risk reduction, when it comes to HIV. Other than trying to bash you back with unintelligent insults let’s try to educate the uneducated. I am not trying to be offensive, but I’m going to guess public health is not your expertise.

Since I started promoting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a pill that reduces the risk of human-to-human HIV transmission, many people asked how I could not promote condoms. PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to ninety-two percent, while latex condoms are approximately ninety-eight to ninety-nine percent effective in stopping the transmission of HIV. I PROMOTE BOTH but we HAVE to understand that we cannot tell people what to do with their bodies. All we can do is advise and tell them the facts.

Facts are sometimes scary and hard to swallow (no pun intended), but honesty hurts; sometimes the faster you swallow the easier it is to take (again no pun intended).

Any disease present anywhere on this earth is a problem whether they do a little or a lot of damage to the human body and mind. Whether it is Ebola or HIV it doesn’t matter; they are both diseases that need to be stopped. Spending energy that is negative does not help anyone—all it does is tell everyone you have nothing better to do.

Researchers and doctors are trying very hard to keep Ebola from infecting the HIV-positive population in Africa. Even though presently there isn’t a HIV vaccine, numerous vaccines against Ebola are now starting human clinical trials and are being fast-tracked.

The only reason why say HIV is a “gay disease” is because in the beginning only gay men were being infected by HIV so they named it Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID). When heterosexuals started getting infected by HIV they stopped calling it GRID.

So, Precious, I hope that this intelligent response was able to answer your very upsetting questions and comments. By the way, just to let you know: How and why I can and will speak on HIV is because I’ve been doing it since 2003. Also, just so you know, I was recently awarded my Master’s in Public Health and I landed a job (at the same time) as a Global Public Health Analyst for the Department of Health and Human Services. I’m also going to attempt to earn my doctorate in Public Health. So I tell you this, I do have the authority to speak on HIV and I will—with every fiber in my being. Nobody tells this black gay HIV positive, husband, father, author, activist, and advice columnist to sit down.

If you, yourself have not positively contributed to the world it is my personal rule and opinion that you are the one who should sit down and shut up.

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].