Just*in Time
by Justin B. Terry-Smith

Photo by Jessica Bolton

July is a good time to talk about HIV Independence Day.

Breaking up is hard to do for everyone. Even amicable breakups are hard. But picture this, you are living with HIV and you have finally found someone to love and to love you. Just like any other relationship you rely and depend on each other whether it be for physical, emotional or financial support. There are certain things one must consider when going through a breakup while living with HIV. But the most important thing is taking care of you, despite the hurt that you are feeling and will continue to feel. Now is the time for your Independence Day. YOU CAN DO THIS!

1. Talk to someone
I went through a very bad breakup and closed everyone out of my life. I started making bad decisions because I didn’t have an outlet to help me with my mental health. If you’re not mentally healthy, chances are you are not taking care of yourself physically, which is directly related to keeping your HIV in control and your T-cell count up.

2. Phone a fucking friend
Trust me, if your catch phrase after your breakup is “I’m fine,” most of your true friends will know that that is a bunch of bullshit. You need to keep your friends close to you to be able to cry on their shoulders every once in a while. After my bad breakup, my friends reminded me that I needed to eat and take my meds; if it weren’t for them, I might have gotten sicker than I already was. If you don’t know this already, HIV likes to stop us form eating and helps us forget to take care of ourselves.

3. Get out and exercise
You need to remain active. The more sedentary you stay, the better HIV has a chance to get the best of you. Of course, everyone wants to go through that dramatic “staying inside your house, don’t take a shower, eat junk food and watching depressing movies breakup” phase. I did go through that phase myself, but I said to myself, “I Ain’t Got Time For That.” I pulled up my bootstraps and went for a three-mile run. I turned my pain into physical wellness and when living with HIV you wanted to physically keep your body in shape.

4. Set a reminder
When you become depressed and start thinking about other people and their issues, you spend less time thinking about yourself. You will forget to take your medication at times. But my suggestion to offset this is to create a reminder on your smartphone to take your medication. Almost everyone in the world has a smartphone but in case you don’t write a damn note!

5. The way to get over someone is to get under a new one
Okay, this is not a solution and nor do I advise it. The best thing to do is to sometimes be by yourself. By being by yourself, it allows you to think and refocus. Since you have more time to yourself fill it up with something positive (pun intended). Get involved in the HIV community; you will find friends and a network to help you. You can be a part of an HIV awareness campaign, write a blog about HIV, etc.

The HIV community is very strong, and we need to be here to uplift each other. Most people who are living with HIV put a lot of emphasis on finding love. When they haven’t found love they think it is because of their HIV serostatus. What they really need to do is look in the mirror and love themselves before loving anyone else. A breakup always sucks, but we must celebrate our own Independence Day. Being independent, is one of the most empowering experiences in someone’s life. Making the rules of life for yourself instead depending on someone to help make them for you can make someone take a long look at themselves as they become stronger and stronger. One must celebrate independence so they can help others celebrate their independence, too.


Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, DrPH, 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. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].