Just*in Time: February 2014

Hello Justin,

Just checked out your video regarding the biohazard tattoo and it inspired me to write. I was diagnosed with HIV two years ago. When this happened I did the responsible thing and notified those I had sexual relations with to ensure all were tested. I never was able to pinpoint who passed it to me but, to be honest, it doesn’t matter. I accepted the issue and moved on accordingly. I often think about getting a biohazard tattoo myself because I do have multiple sex partners from time to time. I do practice safe sex.

I am in a fourteen-year open relationship with my wonderful partner. He knows my status and accepts it. However, from time to time, he insists on having unprotected sex. I am freaking out over this….I can’t bear the thought of passing this infection on to someone, let alone someone I love so much. For the time being I have convinced him to practice safe sex. Do you have any advice that can help when this issue comes up again?

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

I apologize in advance if the question is one you are uncomfortable answering, but I find myself alone when dealing with issues like this.

Need a little kind advice.


Let me say, fourteen years in a relationship is a very long time in “gay” years; you’re like on your fiftieth anniversary…no, just kidding. CONGRATS!

Okay, let me first explain to my readers why I had a biohazard symbol tattooed on my abdomen. The reason why I had this done is because of what it meant to the gay community in the past and not what it means to many of us in the gay community now. I made a conscious decision to get the tattoo because it symbolized that I had HIV. A red ribbon is about HIV awareness and, yes, I could’ve gotten that, but I’m not that kind of person.

In September 2013, I went through a spiritual awakening so I had my biohazard covered with a Triquetra. A Triquetra represents the connection of mind, body and soul, and in Celtic-based Pagan groups it is symbolic of the three realms of earth, sea, and sky. I also have the modern elemental symbols of Earth (Capricorn), my Sun Sign; Fire (Aries), my Rising Sign; and Fire (Aries), my Moon Sign. So then I got a biohazard on my back because I still wanted it on my body but so that every time I look in the mirror I will see spiritual inspiration. Some in the gay community use the biohazard symbol to mean that they bareback. I admit I have barebacked before but now I only bareback with my husband; I’m no angel and I’ve made mistakes in the past.

In terms of using prevention tools, let me say that people are going to do what they want to do. Once you have voiced your opinion, that is about all you can or need to do. But you need to protect yourself. If this man loves you he will not want to put your health in danger. I suggest getting tested for STIs more often. Honestly if he is doing it without you knowing there is a big trust and communication issue you might want to bring up. We who are HIV-positive are more susceptible to other STIs as well. If he is barebacking with others you really need to start taking precautions and talk to him about what he might be doing with others. If he says he wants to bareback with you, there should be something inside of you that asks, “WHY?” Also be informed that Truvada, as PrEP, is a drug that is used to protect people from getting infected with HIV, but know that it is not indicated for protection against other STIs as well.

There are several types of viral hepatitis, such as A, B, C, D, E, G; the most common types are A, B, and C. The hepatitis viruses primarily attack the liver. Most of the individuals who are infected with hepatitis recover with a continuing immunity to the disease, but some people infected with the hepatitis virus die in the critical phase. Hepatitis B and C may develop to chronic hepatitis, in which the liver remains inflamed for more than sixmonths. This can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and sometimes death.

Also think about syphilis, drug resistant HIV, herpes, and chlamydia—which isn’t called the “Silent Killer” for nothing. THINK ABOUT IT!

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].