Just*in Time: February 2012

by Justin B. Terry-Smith

Hi Justin,
I was just wondering what your view was on abstinence? Do you think it’s a good thing, possible, or is it unrealistic?
Thanks in advance.—gypsykatcher30


Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved
Every time I hear one of my friends say, “I’m going to be abstinent,” I think about the reasons why they might say so. There are so many reasons. Some of the people I know decide to because of spiritual reasons, some do it because they are scared of catching HIV or an STI, and others because they suffer from low self-esteem and fear rejection. Listen, if you want to remain abstinent it is okay. I honestly think that anyone who wants to can, but do it for the right reasons.

Do it because you want to and not because you are scared of something. Most of the friends that I have that are abstinent for spiritual reasons usually are able to be abstinent longer than my friends that don’t, but that is only my experience. Also abstinence is the only 100 percent way not to be sexually infected with HIV or any other STI. I for one could not do it at all. As some of you know I’ve been married since August 7, 2009, but before I dated my husband I was single and I thought about abstinence. Honey, if it works for you do it, but as for me I couldn’t.

I’ve been seeing a man for about two years now. I’ve been positive for about five years; my boyfriend is also HIV-positive and he has been infected since 2006. He wants to have unprotected sex. Should I do it? I’m so unsure about this—please help!

Listen up and listen up good. Do not do something you are unsure about or something that you are scared of. Go with your gut. I can’t tell you what to do but I can only speak of what I would do. I’ve been with the same man for almost six years and we still have protected sex. Just because you both have HIV doesn’t mean that neither one of you are not open to being able to be infected with other STIs. There are things such as hepatitis C, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, etc., that you can catch without using a condom.

But there is another side of the controversial subject that I will try to explain, because my opinion is not the be-all end-all say-so of sex between two HIV-positive people. So, you and your partner have been together and, if you are monogamous, there are some ways that people can get around harming either HIV-positive partner when having unprotected sex, but they are very risky. You need to have a very open and honest conversation with your partner about STIs, drug resistance, and treatment history. With HIV comes being susceptible to other STIs. Be ready to take those infections on just in case you are infected with one of them. Please keep in mind that chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are curable and less harmful if caught and treated early, but there is no cure for hepatitis C or herpes.

Knowing your resistances to any HIV drugs is paramount in this context, too. For example, say you’re taking Atripla and you become resistant to Atripla; if you have unprotected sex then there is a chance that your partner might become resistant to his own medication. Past treatment is also important as well. Please discuss all the above with your partner. Thanks…and as the fabulous Miranda Priestley from the infamous movie The Devil Wears Prada says, “That’s all!”

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].

February 2012