Justin's HIV Journal

Friday, May 20, 2011

Interview with AU Magazine Exposed


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Justin B. Terry-Smith Courageously Turns the Camera on Himself to Keep Others from Being Infected
by Dann Dulin

“I want to broadcast my personal business to the world to help others.”
—Activist Justin B. Terry-Smith on POZIAM Radio

Photo by Don Harris. © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved.
This powerful statement is certainly a twist on Billie Holiday’s classic blues ballad, “Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.” Unlike the song, Justin, who is HIV-positive, invites others to share his personal life through his videoblog. It airs on his Web site, which is a moving journal of his HIV adventures. He’ll take his camera into the doctor’s office to show what he goes through for a checkup: T-cell counts, viral loads, etc. Sometimes it’s not pretty.

“Why?” I ask as we sit over lunch at his “own personal Cheers,” Annie’s Steakhouse, near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. He earnestly replies, “To educate people, raise awareness, and encourage them to think twice about having unprotected sex. I want to show them that being HIV-positive is not a piece of cake.”

The videoblogger pioneer is a decorated Air Force veteran. What lies behind the video camera is a typical guy who lives with his husband of six years, Dr. Philip Terry, in Laurel, Maryland. Justin is a legal assistant for the IRS and attends classes at Ashford University, where he’ll soon receive his degree in political science. Atypically, he occasionally writes for the Black AIDS Institute newsletter and has appeared on LOGO’s HIV+Me. He also volunteers for Whitman Walker Clinic and the National Black Justice Coalition.

What partly drives Justin to help others is the loss of his friends to AIDS. “I’m at the point where I’m done counting!” he emotes emphatically. “Many of them I think about all the time.” When Justin was “growing up gay” he had four close friends: Mike, Antonio, Vaughn, and Leon. “When we were younger we didn’t have a care in the world and would go out together all the time. When we started hitting our late teens we all went our separate ways. Mike went on to college and did very well for himself; we keep in contact to this day. Antonio and Vaughn were very close and they stayed in the D.C. area. Antonio went on to join the workforce and is doing well. Sadly, a couple of years ago we lost Vaughn to AIDS.”

Justin and Leon became boyfriends when Justin was released from the military, though they kept the relationship a secret. “He never wanted anyone to know because many of his friends didn’t approve. After we stopped dating we didn’t see each other that often. Then a couple of years later I got a phone call informing me that Leon was dead. It tore me up,” he sighs. “I cried a lot for him and it hurts to think about him even to this day.”

At Leon’s funeral, Justin gazed upon him in the casket and touched him one last time.

“He never told me his age and I hated that. I would always try to trick him into telling me but it never worked,” he says. “When someone handed me a program my heart dropped when I saw the dates: 1981–2007. He was just two years younger than me! I cried during the entire funeral and more after that. But, the one thing that really made me mad was that nobody wanted to address the real issue—Leon had died of AIDS.”

In 2005, Justin was diagnosed with HIV and admits that substance abuse played a large part in acquiring the virus. “I wouldn’t be positive right now if I hadn’t been drinking and using drugs so much. I was using them both to numb the pain of being alone. I remember one night I was drunk and brought a guy home from a club. The next morning I woke up naked, my clothes were strewn all around the room, and my apartment door was wide open with the keys still in the door.” He chews on his house salad topped with Italian vinaigrette. “I didn’t use condoms all the time. When you’re drunk or high you may not think about them.”

Justin pauses and then shifts topics, touching on the AIDS prevention ad campaigns. “I think the message has gotten lost. We all know that we should use condoms…,” he says in a matter-of-fact way, then forcefully punches out the words in a tired drone, “yes, yes, yes! But these young people aren’t really paying attention. They need to see it up close and personal. They need someone who has HIV to get in their face and show them it’s not a walk in the park.” Justin believes in teaching kids right from the get-go, so much so that he recently completed a children’s book, I Have A Secret, which will be published this month. It’s about a boy who learns to live with HIV.

After Justin’s diagnosis he continued to drink and use drugs. His family and friends had to intervene, including his husband, Philip. At one point Philip said to Justin, “It’s either going to be the drugs or me.” That was Justin’s Rubicon; he chose Philip. “With everyone’s help I’ve learned what’s healthy for me. I don’t do drugs anymore and I don’t indulge in alcohol the way I used to,” he notes. “I started to jog to keep my cholesterol down, began eating veggie wraps daily, and in the morning I have a banana with my meds. When I get home from work, my husband makes me a fantastic dinner, usually with plenty of greens.”

“I’ve also cut down on red meat, as well, and I steer clear of things with cholesterol,” he says, biting into his Annie’s Ultimate Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich with a wink, appending, “Today’s food is unusual for me.” Justin offers that he also drinks antioxidant juices, enjoys miso soup, and that, nowadays, green tea with ginseng is his drink of choice.

Conversing with Justin and viewing his videos, it’s very apparent that good health is central to his character. He partakes in alternative therapies that include massage, a home-based yoga program, and acupuncture. “Acupuncture gives me such a release. I love it!” He beams a full luminescent smile that soon turns somber. “When I first went on drugs I was so scared what the side effects might be. My first regime, which was Reyataz, Norvir and Truvada, nothing really happened until the first week was over and then my eyes turned yellow. I was embarrassed about it, stayed away from my family, and wore sunglasses. But the worst was yet to come,” he says. “At that time I worked as a medical technician at a dialysis unit in Baltimore, Maryland. One afternoon I thought I was going to pass gas and little did I know, it was diarrhea. I went home and had to tell my boss what had happened. She was sympathetic and supportive. I was so embarrassed because here I was helping some of the patients with this same issue. From then on, I made sure that I had an extra pair of scrubs and underwear with me all the time!”

As Justin tells this story there’s no hush-hush in his voice. That’s what is engaging about him. He chalks up human behavior, well, as human behavior and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. He doesn’t have to be so revealing. This honesty is what sets him apart and the trendsetter has parlayed that into videoblogging in an effort to save lives.

At thirty-one, nearly six years after being diagnosed, Justin is healthy. “My T cells are decent, but I want them better,” he enforces, adding that he needs to exercise more, too. “I have hypercholesterolemia which is an inherited genetic disorder. This gives me double the risk of having a heart attack and with my HIV meds it’s even higher, so it’s important I stay healthy.”

As lunch winds down, Justin surges. “I want to voice my opinion on the new-found research on the Truvada pill that [might] prevent someone from being infected with HIV. Yes, technology has given us this one pill that will lower your chances, but this doesn’t mean you should go around having unprotected sex. This is not the morning after pill.” He looks away briefly then continues. “The new medications work wonders but your body was not meant to fight off a virus for the remainder of its life. You can live with HIV a long time but why not live without it? Would you rather use a condom or would you rather take four or more pills a day to stay alive?” he says with a stern, quizzical look. “And even then, you can die of complications, not from the virus itself.”

Not fully satisfied with his earlier answer about the motivation behind his videoblogging, I press on. “When I get an e-mail from a fifteen-year-old asking, ‘What do I do, I’m HIV positive?’ I feel bad for him, but I also let him know that there’s life to be lived and you have to live for you—now. Don’t let HIV rule you, you have to rule it,” he states. “On the other side, when I get an e-mail saying, ‘Thank you Justin for helping me through this,’ I know I’m doing my job of helping others.” He takes a short breath and says steadfastly, “I will continue until the day I die.”

Just in time! Click on www.justinbsmith.com.

Photos © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved. For more information, log on to http://donharris.viewbook.com.

Dann Dulin interviewed Suzanne “Africa” Engo for the April issue.

May 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Justin's HIV Journal: Magic Johnson STILL has HIV

Magic Johnson is NOT cured of HIV

I repeat Magic Johnson is NOT cured of HIV. In 1991 Johnson retired from the NBA (National Basketball Association) almost immediately after he made a brave public announcement that he had contracted HIV. I good friend of mine, Jason, while working fell into a brief debate with his co-workers on Magic Johnson and HIV.

The co-workers had stated that they thought that Magic Johnson was cured of HIV. Jason had told them that for a fact that was not true. In the co-workers opinions the reason why Magic Johnson was cure of HIV was because he wasn’t dead yet. They didn’t believe that someone could live that long with HIV. YES in the late 80’s and early 90’s many people saw HIV/AIDS as a death sentence but today this is not true. Johnson is still alive today but he is still infected with the virus that causes AIDS. He is NOT cured, because there is no cure yet.

There is only one time where science has found that a bone marrow transplant made it possible for a man to live HIV free. In 2006, a man in Germany who has been called, “The Berlin Patient” had Leukemia and HIV at the same time. The man went into the hospital to get a bone marrow transplant. After the transplant was a success he came to find out that there was not a trace of HIV in his body. Scientist went public with this news after 2 years to observe the man. The only reason why that man is now cured of HIV is because the bone marrow came from an HIV resistant donor.

Roughly one in 1,000 Europeans and Americans has an inherited genetic mutation, which prevents HIV from attaching itself to cells. This procedure is very expensive and excruciating. Bone marrow transplants kill about a third of patients and also doctors usually only use them in desperate situations like late stages leukemia.

A lot of Black heterosexual people think that Magic Johnson has been cured of HIV and sometimes that can lead to dangerous behaviors. Some people say that, “Oh so Magic Johnson’s been cured of HIV so I can have unprotected sex again”………………NOT. This is not the truth at all. My wished are that people keep protecting themselves against the HIV. Prevention right now should be one of our top priorities since there is no cure at the moment. I also wanted to say to Magic Johnson to please speak out and tell people that you are not cured that you are still living a long and healthy life with the virus that causes AIDS. People need to know Mr. Johnson so they can keep protecting themselves. We (the HIV community) are behind you.

One another note people do use Magic Johnson a lot for their examples of someone who is living healthy with HIV, which I think is great. But please understand that not all of us have the resources that he does to live healthy lives. There are organizations out there that help out with food, medications, housing etc. and we as HIV positive people need them. But it is almost a slap in the face to do such a “cost and comparison”.

Justin's HIV Journal HIV Denialist and Dissidents

HIV Denialist/Dissidents are people that do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. They also believe that taking medication to help fight against HIV is wrong. They also do not buy into the fact that HIV is a threat to public health worldwide. They also think that toxicities are the main contributors to why HIV test come up positive. Also HIV Denialist/Dissidents believe that the science of observing & discovering HIV is flawed and that it is not sexually transmitted. HIV Denialist/Dissidents believe that HIV is transmitted through reckless and recreational drug use.

Please keep that in mind as you read further.

When creating Justin’s HIV Journal I came across and man named Gregory. He seemed nice and wanted to talk to me about being HIV positive. He then proceeded to spout off about theories of HIV Deniailist/Dissidents. I quickly sparked up a dialog and then got very sick of his ranting and raving.

Recently I posted a vlog entry called, “Justin’s HIV Journal: Love in the time of HIV”. My good friend Mark Fischer, Sr. Vice President of, “Back to the Basics” posted it again on his facebook page. Well Gregory decided to comment on the entry and here where things started getting a little heated. Fischer has been an HIV activist and supports me in my decision to take HIV medications; Gregory is an HIV Denialist/Dissident and does not. Gregory posted a video about Mark Fischer saying that he was going to sue him for pushing me to take HIV medication.

Gregory’s video:

Let me just say one thing. THIS IS MY CHOICE. Mark and I are friends and he stand by my decisions. HIV Denialism is responsible for thousands of deaths especially in Africa.

Gregory’s video to Maria

Gregory for you to insult Maria is wrong. You clearly are being condescending by brining up that you should have spoken in Spanish to her so she could understand what you are saying. You are being spiteful and fanatical, and you don’t even know it. Honestly I’ve been very nice up until now, to me Gregory you have a couple of screws lose, the elevator doesn’t reach all the way to the top and the lights are on but nobody is home. Take your HIV Denialism/Dissidents elsewhere. How dare you threaten to sue someone and if I heard you wanted to include me in a class action lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies I would think you were insane. For you to come at someone and say, “Here sign on this dotted line so that you can join us on this lawsuit” I would still think you were insane. Now I know I don’t just have to think it you are insane. Back off Gregory.

Gregory runs the youtube channels with usernames “oberservationmode” and creator of “hivquestions”.

Maria’s Retort:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Then I discovered that there was a website that called me a “Liar” and that I was a pharmaslut. Let me say this, who are you to call me a Liar.


Maria honey I love you. Nobody scares me either, and you are very aware.