Just*in Time: May 2014

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

It’s been a while. I want to say congrats on all the wonderful things happening in your life. On another note, I would love your opinion on something. When should someone like myself, who is positive, disclose that information to someone you like or may be interested in? I find myself in such a hard space. Do you think guys are more open to dating men with HIV?

I hope to hear from you soon!

This question is asked time and time again by all of us who are HIV-positive, unconsciously or consciously, whether we are talking about disclosure at work or play. You might not know this, but you ask this question to yourself more often than you think.

When I was dating I was very open about my status. It was one of the first things that I disclosed to my potential partner. If the guy that you are seeing doesn’t want to be with you after you tell him, then he isn’t worth your time. Also, if he doesn’t respect you for telling you in the first place, my opinion is to lose his number quickly. If he can’t respect you for telling him something so sacred then he isn’t even worth the dirt under your fingernails…..if there is any!

I have been rejected before when disclosing and luckily I had enough self-esteem to say, “NEXT!!” For instance, I was on a date with a guy and it was going really well. At the end of the date he and I made our way to my apartment in SW Washington, D.C. He asked if he could come up and I told him about my status. He immediately told me to get out of the car. After that moment I told myself that I would be upfront with my HIV status, even before the date started. It’s better to know what you are going into instead of being blind.

One fear that a lot of us have when being HIV-positive is being rejected. Being loved, despite what the masses say, is what every human being on this earth wants. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be love from a spouse or boyfriend—it can be friends or family that soothe or scratch that love itch we all have. The cliché that love is all we need rings true.

Your next question is a good one, “Do you think guys are more open to dating men with HIV?” Ten years ago I might have said “no.” HIV has given us time to think: If we had a partner with a terminal illness would we be okay with being or staying with them?

Also, thinking about how HIV is contracted also presses the community to question its own fear and stigma. Nowadays I think that the world, especially those within the gay community, has gotten more and more comfortable with dating people who are HIV-positive. When HIV was first discovered, it killed within years of some diagnoses. But in this day and age people who are HIV-positive are living healthy lives. If the man that you are dating is educated enough on HIV he will know that there is a recent finding that says, in the U.S. and Canada, a twenty-year-old HIV-positive adult can expect to live into their seventies if on antiretroviral therapy. Last year, a European study found an average life expectancy for a person living with HIV was 71.5 to 75 years. Also another recent study says that when an HIV-positive individual is considered undetectable they cannot transmit the virus. Now this is not to say go out and have sex without a condom; what I’m trying to say is take care of yourself so that your virus can become undetectable. Also, still use a condom because there are other sexually transmitted infections that you have to worry about like hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc. If he knows these things, then he knows that there is little risk for you to transmit anything to him.

Just remember, you have to start loving yourself before you can even think of having love in your heart for someone else. I hope this helps in your journey to find love. Also remember to take your time—good things happen to those who wait.

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].