Just*in Time: May 2013

Just*in Time by Justin B. Terry-Smith

Hello Justin,

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

I do admire you so much! I added you as a friend [on Facebook] but never wanted to patronize you by coming up with clichés.

I’m an African woman living in the U.K. I have a big family as you can imagine…and I have a cousin who I have supported since he lost his father at the age of eight years. I’m turning forty this August and, for me, he’s the son I was meant to have even though I’m only eleven years older than him. I knew he was gay before he realized it himself. But I let him be so that he could find his own way.

From his first experience, he contracted HIV; now the challenge is saving him! I’m doing my best—he’s ok as he’s on a therapy that is, for now, supporting his immune system! Unfortunately, in our family, there’s no room for a gay man let alone one with HIV! I love my little cuz, and I will support him till the end of my life (I’m constantly researching new discoveries!). I’m here for him and I’m glad you are here for everyone…keep being you and be the best you can be! But don’t forget to live. Anything I could do to give him more support?
—Hannah xoxo

Let me first say thank you so much for being so real with me in your approach. It is amazing to see someone who has taken this young man and stood in as one of his parents when he had none.

They say that usually mothers know about their child’s sexuality even before the child does. My parents did the same with me. They knew I was gay but let me find my own way in my own sexuality.

I’m very sorry that he contracted HIV, and I’m glad you do not feel guilty about it. My parents, I know, felt guilty when they were informed I was HIV-positive. I told them that they did nothing wrong and that they had nothing to do with my contracting HIV.

By therapy I think you mean treatment and this is good. Remember, though, that he needs to stay on that treatment and he might want to seek out a counselor or someone to talk to when he feels a little depressed.

Family can be tough at times. Remember to be there for him and make sure he knows that you are there for him. He might not want to talk about it now with you, but he will eventually come around. When my mother was told about my HIV status I hadn’t had a chance to tell her myself. It turns out my own cousin told her mother, who told my mother.

I got a phone call from my family with all of them crying on speaker phone. They asked me sobbing, “Do you have AIDS? We heard you had AIDS!”
I replied, “No I do not have AIDS.”

They asked again, “Justin do you have HIV?”

Then I replied, “Yes I have HIV.”

They started crying even more.

I told them, “You have to be strong with me and not cry for me.”

After that moment they stopped crying and started supporting. For example, my mother and other family members sponsor me for the Washington, D.C. AIDS Walk/5K. They call to check up on me and they still treat me the same as if I didn’t have HIV.

For more support I would suggest that he find a support group. Depending on age/race, etc., he might feel more comfortable with a certain demographic. The analogy that I made up is “Being with others in the same boat might make you want to paddle faster to get to your destination.” It might help him stick to his treatment regimen and keep his doctor’s appointments,as well.

It sounds like you love him like a mother would and I think that is fantastic. Happy Mother’s Day!

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]

Read this article in the May 2013 digital issue by clicking here.

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