Just*in Time: March 2017

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

When being first diagnosed with HIV I personally handled it as best as I could. We all handle our diagnosis in different ways. Some people become severely depressed, some look at it as a chance to live their lives in a healthier way, and some, believe it or not, are happy because they don’t have to fear HIV transmission any longer. With mixed emotions flying high, we must remember some important things about not getting depressed about having HIV.

I came up with seven ways to fight HIV depression.

Find a Network: Networking with people of like interest is important personally and professionally. There are plenty of HIV communities either online or in person that you can join. These groups, whether you find them on online social media or face to face, are meant to help you through this process. There are people you will find that have and are going through the same thing as you are. It is important that you know you are not alone.

Go to Events: The community can always use help. My suggestion is first start off small. The first event I think I ever went to or got involved with was a White Attire Affair whose proceeds had benefitted an HIV/AIDS organization. Next I decided to do the Washington, D.C., AIDS Walk/5K Run, until my knee started having issues. There are small and large events you can attend, whether you are in a small or large community.

Join the Fight: Become an activist and start organizing fundraisers, join HIV campaigns for prevention, or go to different organizations and ask them, “How can I help?” Volunteer for an HIV organization that has ideals that align with your own. This can help you further your own education in HIV.

Get Political: There are going to be several obstacles that you are going to face being HIV-positive and politics will be one of them. Some politicians are continuing to take away monies that directly affect programs that reduce the cost of HIV medications for underinsured and uninsured persons with HIV. The Ryan White CARE Act, which was first enacted on August 18, 1990, is the largest federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS. Congress has to reauthorize the act so that it can be extended for another period of time. Ryan White gives a huge chunk of its monies to the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which gives HIV medication to HIV patients across the United States. So yeah, it’s kind of important that we fight for it.

Seek Counseling: Sometimes you just need to vent to someone about what you are going through. But I suggest trying to find an HIV counselor or ask your local HIV organization if they have counseling services. If not, ask if they can refer you to a therapist who has a specialty in HIV or infectious disease. There are also numbers that you can call to be able to talk to someone who understands.

Find Solace in Friends: If you choose not to disclose your status and feel that you are going to bust keeping this in, chances are it is not helping your mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional state. Try to find a friend who might understand what you are going through and who is not going to judge you based on your HIV status.

Get Spiritual: I know that I’m really not one to do this myself, but I see that some of my really good friends that were recently diagnosed with HIV turn to their higher power or spiritual leader. A lot of them tend to feel better when turning to their own spirituality and drawing strength from it. Now whether you are a Jew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, etc., it doesn’t matter—if you find strength to get through tough times by praying or getting involved spiritually, do it. It can’t hurt, try it.

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].