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Just*in Time: June 2012

Posted on June 25, 2012 by in Columns, Just*in Time, Noteworthy

Justin,

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

You probably get messages like this a lot, but I’m a little worried.

I had unprotected sex about six to seven months ago. I was a virgin and he was, too. He claimed he was “clean” and everything, but my state of mind wasn’t really all that good afterwards.

Anyway, I am worried I might have been exposed to HIV, but I haven’t had any of the symptoms, like lymph nodes swelling, though about two weeks ago I got a cold…well, I hope that it was a cold. My glands didn’t swell, and I got a sore throat for a bit and I kept having these heat spikes where my temperature would go up and then down, but only lasting a few seconds. I’m still sniffling. Toward the end of the major symptoms my gums started to ache and my jaw hurt, too. I might be worrying over nothing but I just hope you can give me some advice. I mean if I have it can I still live a long life?
—Harvey

Well, after reading your question I wanted to break it down so I, for one, better understand. Okay, so he said he was a virgin. Ask yourself this, “How can you look at someone and tell they are a virgin?” The answer is, you can’t. Also using substances that lower your inhibitions make you more susceptible to HIV/AIDS. So we must watch out for ourselves and ask questions.

If you are worried that you might have been exposed then the best thing to do is to get tested for HIV. HIV is a tricky disease and it is different with everyone. Some people have no symptoms at all, even when they’ve been infected for a long time. Also, if you are having a sore throat, heat spikes, and other viral symptoms, you might want to see a doctor. The best thing that you could do in either situation—whether it is a common cold or something HIV-related—is to get medical attention. Also, if you are infected with HIV you can still live a long healthy life, but you will have to take care of yourself more than you used to. In a study researchers predicted that a twenty-year-old person starting HIV medications between 1996 and 1999, the early years of combination antiretroviral drug therapy, could expect to live an additional thirty-six years, to the age of fifty-six, than if they were not on treatment. Over time the number of years increased significantly. A twenty-year-old who started treatment between 2003 and 2005 could expect to live an additional forty-nine years, to the age of sixty-nine. Now these numbers are great but make sure that you stick with your medications, exercise, and eat right. You will be okay, negative or positive. ☺

Hi Justin,
I subscribed to your YouTube channel recently and I absolutely adore your videos. Not only are you incredibly courageous, you’re also so well spoken and intelligent! You emanate strength, and everything that you’re doing for the community as a whole is truly remarkable. Praise aside, I do have a question for you: What are your thoughts on the HIV [antibody] testing window period? It’s something that truly disturbs me; the thought that I could be positive but test negative regardless is torturous. I’ve been tested many times in my life, all of which have thankfully come back negative, but I struggle with never having peace of mind. The constant doubt lingers, “Okay, so you’re ‘negative,’ but what if your results were only negative because you were exposed too recently for the test to detect?”
—Rebecca

Yes, I’m a big advocate for people knowing their status. The window period is something that we cannot do anything about now. I tell people who are sexually active to get tested every three months. Getting tested every three months can shave down that window a tad. Also, there is even a better test to close that window known as the Architect HIV Ag/Ab combo assay, which can catch the infection early. Studies have shown that this particular test may detect HIV up to twenty days earlier than antibody-only tests, which is important in controlling the spread of the virus.

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 jsmithco98@hotmail.com.

June 2012

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