Just*in Time
by Justin B. Terry-Smith

[pull_quote_center]I’ve been diagnosed with HIV and I don’t know much about what’s going on, what to expect. I’m not on medications yet, I’m terrified of even catching just a cold and I can’t really talk to anybody because nobody knows. I mean, who is going to want to date me?
Philadelphia, PA[/pull_quote_center]

Justinweb[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ell I’m guessing the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, is not the advice you were looking for but I’ll do my best to help you as much as I can.

Okay, dude, first things first. You are going to be okay. I know you are horrified, but you will be fine. To tell the truth, a person with HIV can take a longer time to get over a cold, but you will probably not die because of a cold. With the ways that science and medicine are going a cold will not be the nail in your coffin. I honestly have not been sick in a long while; the only time I get “sick” is when the seasons change and that’s only because I have allergies. When you get a cold you are going to have to take care of yourself just as much as you did before you were diagnosed with HIV.

You said you have nobody to talk to about your diagnosis. I see that you live in the Philadelphia area. I must say that there are many resources that you can take advantage of. I advise that you find a support group so that you can talk about your feelings because there are a lot of emotions when one is diagnosed with HIV. Support groups are usually facilitated by volunteers and staff who are supervised by mental health professionals. Some of the groups hold weekly meetings for people affected by or infected with HIV/AIDS, their family members and loved ones. They are supposed to be confidential to keep your identity private. There are challenges that you are facing and are going to face as a person living with HIV that only others living with the virus are going to understand.

Think about this as the beginning of a new life. Even though it may not seem that way now, trust me, the more you think about it this way, the more and more positive-minded you will become about your situation. Now is the time to take better care of you. Listen to your doctor; remember, just because you are diagnosed with HIV doesn’t mean that you have to go on medications immediately. I was diagnosed in 2006 and I didn’t have to go on medication until 2008.

Now here is the thing about dating while being infected with HIV: You have to keep in the back of your mind that you are bigger than HIV. There is a good chance that you might be rejected because of your HIV status. Do not worry about this; if the man rejects you because you have HIV than he is not worth it. Your main goal is hearing the “in sickness and in health” vow, right? Well, think about it this way: If that guy ever marries someone, that someone might be asking for trouble because if he can’t deal with sickness now then he might not be able to deal with it from a mate who gets sick with old age. Besides, now we have PrEP and condoms, so if they can’t deal with you being HIV-positive they are not worth your time, especially if they refuse to educate themselves about HIV and the wonderful preventative measures that we have in this day and age.

Try the organization called ActionAIDS; it is Philadelphia’s largest AIDS service organization. ActionAIDS provides case management, financial services, counseling, support groups, prison services and advocacy to HIV-positive people. For more information about the organization, log on to: www.actionaids.org.

You are going to be okay—trust me. There are plenty of people around to help you through this.

Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, 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. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].