Just*in Time: January 2013


Just*in Time by Justin B. Terry-Smith

Good Evening Justin,

Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved
I said this before but it just seems like I know you—it’s your smile. But this is the reason for this message: I’m living with HIV as are a couple of my friends. Now, one thinks that people who have sex without disclosing should be jailed and that people who are living with the virus who don’t work should be put on an island in a federal homeless shelter instead of given housing. He believes this will stop the spread of HIV in the young Black MSM (men who have sex with men) community. He tells me to stop telling him it won’t work and tell him what will and, honestly, I don’t know. But I do know that dehumanizing and incarcerating isn’t the answer. Any suggestions?

Okay, first of all, let’s get something straight. Your friend that is saying all these horrible things needs help. All these things are in his head, but did you ever think of why? There could be something there besides the reason of lowering HIV infection rates among the Black MSM community. He might be going through some self-loathing himself. But let’s look at this on the other side of things as well.
So, why would someone actually say that people who do not disclose should be jailed and that people who are living with the virus who don’t work should be put on an island in a federal homeless shelter instead of given housing?

(As an aside to this last suggestion, let me just say that there are people who take advantage of the system, but if your friend wants to put them on an island he will have to put everyone that doesn’t want to work on an island. I don’t know anyone who really wants to go
to work.)

There are always two sides to every argument and then the truth, and you have to figure that out yourself. As you might know I’ve been out with my HIV status since I was diagnosed in 2006. One of the only reasons why I was so comfortable about disclosing my HIV status is because I had friends who were HIV-positive since the age of nineteen and I even dated one of them. So, because I was exposed to people living with HIV, I didn’t feel funny about meeting or dating them. That being said since your friend is HIV-positive, I’m going to guess he might not have had a lot of HIV-positive friends who are open and comfortable with their own status.

Okay, now, how he was infected really has to be taken into account. If he was betrayed by a boyfriend or someone he dated that might make him bitter. As a lot of us know having your heart broken can really cut someone deep; now add that the person who broke your heart also infected you with HIV.

BURRRNNNNN!!! OUUCHHH!!! Cuts like a knife, doesn’t it?

In my opinion I don’t think jail and deportation is the answer to solve anyone’s issues, especially not HIV within the Black MSM community. I’m open about my status because I’m comfortable, man; others are not. Why might others not be comfortable about disclosing their HIV status to their sexual partners?

Well, we can say that the mentality that your friend has is exactly why they do not open up. That kind of mentality that your friend has feeds stigma and that very stigma is why people who have HIV are in denial that they even have HIV and sometimes will engage in sexual activities without telling anyone about their own HIV status.

After all, how can one care for other people if one doesn’t care about oneself?

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]

January 2013

Read the article in the digital edition by clicking here (on our site) or here (off our site).