Justin's HIV Journal

Monday, December 24, 2012


Just*in Time: December 2012

Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved
I have a question for you: What is your opinion about gift givers and bug chasers? I hear that there are people out there who want to spread HIV and others who are looking to get infected with HIV on purpose. I have been diagnosed with HIV for about one year now and I had to go on meds because I didn’t know I had it for so long. I hate taking them, but I know I have to in order to survive. I don’t know anyone who would want to go through anything that I go through or anything you go through, either. I just don’t get it. Can you give me some insight?
Let me first explain what a bug chaser is. A bug chaser is slang for someone who pursues sexual intercourse with people who are HIV-infected in order to eventually contract HIV. A gift giver is an HIV-positive person who wants to infect HIV-negative participants who willingly seek to become HIV-positive.
Well, when I first heard of bug chasers, I thought they were crazy. I really didn’t understand why someone would want to be infected with HIV. It is not until a close friend who is also HIV-positive talked to me about it that I understood more about it. He himself was a bug chaser at one point in time, until he was diagnosed with HIV himself.
Here is what might be one reason why people “chase” HIV. The HIV community has been through a lot since HIV/AIDS had been discovered and named. Some people who are negative view the community as one of acceptance, where one is able to be sexually free. Bug chasers, in my opinion, want to belong to a community and that need for belonging has somehow manifested itself as a need that’s targeted towards the HIV community. Basically some feel that being a part of the HIV community makes them a part of something special.
Another possible reason: Some bug chasers believe that getting HIV will make safe sex a moot point, and so, therefore, in this mentality, they believe that catching HIV is getting rid of any anxiety of always having to worry about catching HIV. Obviously some of them have not contracted other viruses like hepatitis C, or they would realize that they are at risk for other infections like a different, possibly drug-resistant, strain of HIV. In my opinion, these men probably do not want HIV, but they think it will happen no matter what they do sexually.
Loneliness also may have something to do with it, as well. A lot of these men do not want to die alone or at least want to control their own destinies when it comes to death. Death comes for everyone, but with suicide, for example, a lot of people believe that at least death is on your own terms and nobody else’s.
And in some countries being HIV-positive may put you in front of the line for some healthcare benefits and services.
Also, a lot of people feel that society has treated them like crap and they feel liberated about being positive because they feel that HIV has shown them how to be stronger and to find themselves as well. When someone feels like they are a part of a society so strongly, it hurts when that society shuns them. For example, religion gives a lot of people a sense of who they are and a sense of belonging. When a person is shunned for their religion they will try to look for something to fill that empty void; they will look to another community for that same sense of belonging.
All in all, when anyone is infected no matter how, it is a travesty. To have someone willing to infect another with “the gift” of HIV is just as awful. This is not a gift and, trust me, I think it sucks…Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year. But, remember, some gifts are just not supposed to be opened.
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 jsmithco98@hotmail.com.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Justin's HIV Journal: Fox 5 News WTTG Interview World AIDS Day 2012

This World AIDS I remember all that I've known who are infected with this disease and that have passed because of it. I was lighting my candle and a lot of faces went through my mind. Today was a day of rememberance and I stood silent. But I also left my house and took a long walk to clear my head of things. I found a clearing in a wooded area where I live and sat in the earth. I meditated and felt as if they were here with me. I want to tell them and you all that they will not be forgotten. I will always hold a candle for them, I will always run the AIDS Walk/5K Run, and I will always remember.



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Philip & Justin B. Terry Smith - Positive Parents 10/28 by POZ I AM RADIO | Blog Talk Radio

Philip & Justin B. Terry Smith - Positive Parents 10/28 by POZ I AM RADIO | Blog Talk Radio

Justin B. Terry-Smith, 32, has been an HIV and Gay Civil Rights activist in the Washington DC area since 1999.  An Air Force veteran, he was honorably discharged with awards and decorations in 2003.  Justin created ‘Justin’s HIV Journal’ to advocate for HIV/AIDS education, prevention and awareness.  In his journal he tells people about the trials and tribulations when it comes to living with HIV/AIDS. He is also the Author of “I Have A Secret”, which is a story about a young boy living with HIV.  Justin also presently writes an Advice Column called, ‘Just*in Time’ for A&U, America’s AIDS Magazine & is working on his HIV Campaign called, ‘Write A Letter to HIV Campaign’ He also is in Graduate School for his Master’s in Public Health
Philip B. Terry-Smith, Ph.D., Th.D., LPC., is in private practice as an executive and personal coach, counselor and organizational consultant. He has worked with many diverse populations and settings, noted for using creative approaches to help organizations and individuals meet and overcome challenges and has thus made a career of human service management and consulting.  He has taught at all levels (graduate & undergraduate) for the many years in distance, “non- traditional” and “brick and mortar” schools including a 10 year stint in a high school.  He is on the Boards for the Atlas Performing Arts Center and is vice chair for APAC Manager. He is a commissioned officer in the Maryland Military Department, Md. Defense Force and is Sr. Clergy and a Chaplain for his Temple. His love for music and technical gadgetry presents an avocation for which he is quite fond and earned him the moniker “Dr. Gadget”.  He is an avid motorcyclist and is honored to ride with the Patriot Guard.  He currently resides in Maryland with his spouse Justin and their foster son.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Just*in Time: September 2012 HIV and the Unborn

Just*in Time: September 2012

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

Hi Justin,
I found your site through a friend of mine who knows you personally, but I do not want to share his name. I’m a twenty-six-year-old HIV-positive female. Well, I just found out two days ago that I’m pregnant. I’m scared of transmitting HIV to my unborn child; what should I do? I haven’t been to see my regular doctor yet. Please help me. What should I do?—Andrea

Go see your doctor immediately. Listen, the faster you see a doctor the more that can be done about taking preventive measures to protect your unborn child. Okay, so here are some facts. Yes, a mother can pass on HIV to her unborn child but if precautions are taken this percentage is lowered to single digits. There are HIV medications that many women take during pregnancy. Also, when the child is born, doctors might suggest that he or she start on medications as well. When delivery time is near you could opt for a C-section or vaginal delivery, depending on the state of your health. During childbirth there are a lot of fluids between mother and baby, but the less fluid during the delivery the better. But the main thing is to see a doctor; they will run blood tests on you and be upfront about your HIV status so that they know to take the proper precautions to protect you and your unborn child. When your doctor runs all the blood tests, HIV will come up anyway, whether you tell them or not. Trust and believe that you will be fine. I am not your doctor and I cannot tell you if your child will be born HIV-positive or not but think positively—it’s beneficial to your state of mind and your baby. Just keep in mind that you are thinking for two. By the way, congratulations!   Justin,
My wife and I are HIV-positive and we feel that breastfeeding is a bonding moment for the mother and child. We are not going to breastfeed our baby, who is HIV-negative, because we are afraid that we would pass on HIV to our baby. But we have friends that beg to differ. I think they are more worried about bonding with their child than they are about the health of their own child. I want to ask you your opinion because I know they read your column. They have told us that their child is HIV-negative but continue to breastfeed him. What do you think they should do?—HIV Parents

Well, let me just say congrats on the baby and I’m so happy for you both. I hope your friends are reading this. They need to stop breastfeeding immediately or take proper precautions to lower the infection rate; just because their child is now HIV-negative it doesn’t mean that the child will not develop HIV later on through breastfeeding by the HIV-positive mother. Even though breastfeeding has been proven beneficial to both baby and mother it has a chance of HIV infection. Breast milk is filled with nutrients and antibodies that can protect the child against diseases, but it has never been proven that it protects against HIV. Also, as the baby grows and matures, so does breast milk to better adapt to the baby’s needs. The mother while breastfeeding has a lower rate of being diagnosed with certain diseases as well. These benefits are great but, being HIV-positive, one must take precautions. In this area of HIV transmission, breastfeeding, I’m afraid, must be avoided. But you can feed your baby in another way, by using commercial formula. In many parts of the world breastfeeding is the only option because of lack of finances and resources. One out of four children worldwide is infected with HIV through breastfeeding. I hope you’re listening.
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 jsmithco98@hotmail.com.
September 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Justin’s HIV Journal: Justin & Phil Become Foster/Adoption Parents (Pozitive Parents)

Back in 2006 I was diagnosed with HIV and I cried about it at first.  People of course think when they are being diagnosed with HIV is that their first thought is that they are going to die, NOT I.  I very first thought that made me cry was that I wasn’t going to be able to have any children.  At the time I didn’t know about sperm cleansing at all.  I felt like I was damaged goods and I thought I would never have the feeling of being a good father.   With the feelings that came with my HIV diagnosis, also went the feelings that I would ever hear anyone call me Dad.   After my diagnosis the idea of being a father just went away because I didn’t feel like I could ever do it while being HIV positive.  Let’s break this down:

1)      After I did research I found out about Sperm Washing and how that would rid the sperm of HIV.  Sperm washing is a process which has been developed for couples who wish to have a child, where the male is HIV-positive and the female is HIV-negative. The procedure reduces the risk of HIV transmission to the female partner and subsequently the unborn child.  Sperm washing stands on the foundation that HIV infected material is carried primarily in the seminal fluid rather than in the sperm itself. The technique involves purifying sperm from seminal fluid. The sperm is then used for insemination into the female partner when she is ovulating and most likely to become pregnant (called Intra-Uterine Insemination or IUI), or for in vitro fertilization, (IVF).  A recent study found the risk of HIV transmission from sperm washing to be zero.  I thought oh my gay WOW this would be great, now all I have to do is find out where to go to do this. 

2)      Finding a female that would be willing to take the risk even after the sperm would be washed of all HIV.  There has not been a case where a female has been infected with HIV after sperm washing has taken place. 

3)      At the Gay Men’s Health Summit in 2012 I did some research about Artificial Insemination.  There was an organization that does the Sperm Cleansing and then fits you with a surrogate.  I thought, “Wow How exciting!!” Then I saw the price tag, and I said, “Well we can’t afford that right now”. 

Another option that occurred to us was to adopt.  Here is the thing with adoption; if you go through an agency it can take a lot of money and can seem costly also a lot of people have a moral issue with going through an agency.  Some people think that going through an agency is saying that there adoption is more like a financial deal than made out of love.  I don’t think that way, but some people do.  Because of the cost of adopting through an agency, Phil and I have decided to go through the state for Foster Care and Adoption. 

The state of Maryland has no provisions against same-sex married couples adopting children.  Also since I am HIV positive I had thought long and hard about this and I also wondered if that would be a reason for the state to reject us from being Foster/Adoptive Parents for the state of Maryland.  During Baltimore Pride Phil and I passed a stand at the festival that gave out information on Maryland State Foster Care/Adoption, so we took one.  Then we called the number on the pamphlet and made an appointment.  The appointment was to start classes in Anne Arundel County (Annapolis) for Foster Care/Adoption.  In the classes there are 24 hours of training that you must complete.  Phil and I had to go to Annapolis Maryland every Thursday from 5:30PM - 8:30PM which isn’t bad considering how important the classes are and what the end result might be.  We started our classes back in June and finished them.  We missed one classes but we were able to make it up.  

During the classes each household must have what are called, “Home Visits”.  A home visit is done by the state to inspect your home and to make sure that it is safe.  Depending on what age group you are looking to adopt there will be certain things that they will be looking for.  Phil and I opted to Foster or Adopt in the age group Infancy to 5 years old.  So there were stair gates, child car seats, a stroller, and other supplies that needed to by purchased.  When Fostering teens one of the things they look for is to make sure your alcohol is locked up or in a secure location in the home.    Since we have been a part of this program we have had 4 home visits thus far and that should be our final one.  Also there is another important thing you must know.  Home Visits are the only inspection your household must go through.  

The household has to be inspected by the fire department for safety reasons.  One reason is to make sure that you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your house.  They will measure each room you have in your house.   The reason why they are measuring each room is to see how many children can live in your house at one time.  Our number for our house is 5 children.  Phil said, “Oh wow I can’t wait to tell our Social Worker that we can have 5 children”.  I then GASPED!!.  Phil was only kidding but 2 children are what we had originally planned for, but as you know sometimes things come up!!!  

You also have the option to care for a special needs child.  We made sure that it was known that we would take in a HIV positive child.  Also we needed to get our physician check up as well.  When you are HIV positive and trying to be a Foster or Adoption parent you MUST be undetectable.  Also you have to be cleared of other disease like TB.
People asked if we wanted a boy or a girl and other questions.  Well we are open to a boy or a girl, any religion, race, etc., it didn’t matter to us; we want to provide a good home to children who need it.  I had first bought up the subject of children to Phil before we got married.  I needed to know that he was on board with having children and low and behold he was and still is.  Having children is a big responsibility and making sure that I have time to spend with them is a must.  J

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Just*in Time: June 2012

Just*in Time: June 2012

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

You probably get messages like this a lot, but I’m a little worried. I had unprotected sex about six to seven months ago. I was a virgin and he was, too. He claimed he was “clean” and everything, but my state of mind wasn’t really all that good afterwards. Anyway, I am worried I might have been exposed to HIV, but I haven’t had any of the symptoms, like lymph nodes swelling, though about two weeks ago I got a cold…well, I hope that it was a cold. My glands didn’t swell, and I got a sore throat for a bit and I kept having these heat spikes where my temperature would go up and then down, but only lasting a few seconds. I’m still sniffling. Toward the end of the major symptoms my gums started to ache and my jaw hurt, too. I might be worrying over nothing but I just hope you can give me some advice. I mean if I have it can I still live a long life?

Well, after reading your question I wanted to break it down so I, for one, better understand. Okay, so he said he was a virgin. Ask yourself this, “How can you look at someone and tell they are a virgin?” The answer is, you can’t. Also using substances that lower your inhibitions make you more susceptible to HIV/AIDS. So we must watch out for ourselves and ask questions.
If you are worried that you might have been exposed then the best thing to do is to get tested for HIV. HIV is a tricky disease and it is different with everyone. Some people have no symptoms at all, even when they’ve been infected for a long time. Also, if you are having a sore throat, heat spikes, and other viral symptoms, you might want to see a doctor. The best thing that you could do in either situation—whether it is a common cold or something HIV-related—is to get medical attention. Also, if you are infected with HIV you can still live a long healthy life, but you will have to take care of yourself more than you used to. In a study researchers predicted that a twenty-year-old person starting HIV medications between 1996 and 1999, the early years of combination antiretroviral drug therapy, could expect to live an additional thirty-six years, to the age of fifty-six, than if they were not on treatment. Over time the number of years increased significantly. A twenty-year-old who started treatment between 2003 and 2005 could expect to live an additional forty-nine years, to the age of sixty-nine. Now these numbers are great but make sure that you stick with your medications, exercise, and eat right. You will be okay, negative or positive. ☺
Hi Justin,
I subscribed to your YouTube channel recently and I absolutely adore your videos. Not only are you incredibly courageous, you’re also so well spoken and intelligent! You emanate strength, and everything that you’re doing for the community as a whole is truly remarkable. Praise aside, I do have a question for you: What are your thoughts on the HIV [antibody] testing window period? It’s something that truly disturbs me; the thought that I could be positive but test negative regardless is torturous. I’ve been tested many times in my life, all of which have thankfully come back negative, but I struggle with never having peace of mind. The constant doubt lingers, “Okay, so you’re ‘negative,’ but what if your results were only negative because you were exposed too recently for the test to detect?”

Yes, I’m a big advocate for people knowing their status. The window period is something that we cannot do anything about now. I tell people who are sexually active to get tested every three months. Getting tested every three months can shave down that window a tad. Also, there is even a better test to close that window known as the Architect HIV Ag/Ab combo assay, which can catch the infection early. Studies have shown that this particular test may detect HIV up to twenty days earlier than antibody-only tests, which is important in controlling the spread of the virus.
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 jsmithco98@hotmail.com.
June 2012

Justin's HIV Journal: Justin Runs the Rebel Race 2012 (Maryland/DC I)

There are a lot of things I hope to accomplish and being HIV positive not only pushes me harder but makes me open to new things and possibilities.  I love a challenge and I almost thrive on them.  In February some of my friends were talking about us doing the Rebel Race.  I had no idea what it was so I googled it.  I watched a video of people running up steep hills. Doing low crawls through mud, jumping through hurdles, etc.  There were all sorts of obstacle courses and so I e-mail my close friends and we decided to run it.

So on June 7th, 2012 we all decided to drive to 4101 Stansbury Mill Rd Monkton, Maryland 21111, which is where the Rebel Race is.  We started the race at the same time but finished at different time but ALL IN ALL WE DID IT TOGETHER!!!  My husband and other spouses sat in support and shouted as we ran across the finish line.  It was amazing to see my baby at the finish line waiting for me.  Be HIV positive doesn’t mean that you cannot do things that you’ve had your heart set on.  You have to stay focused and believe in yourself.  Do NOT let HIV dictate who you are or what you cannot do.  If there is anyone out there that say you cannot do something because you are HIV positive then you tell them that there isn’t anything you cannot do.  Here is a Before and After PIC:



Maryland/DC I


Rebel Race is offering a 3.1 mile race and a 9.3 mile race in the Maryland/DC area.
(The Mid-Atlantic 9.3 mile race is a brutal extension of the 3.1 mile race)

9:30am (5k)                 11:00am (5k)               12:30pm (5k)            
10:00am (5k)               11:30am (5k)               1:00pm (5k)                  3:00pm (15k)
10:30am (5k)               12:00pm (5k)               2:00pm (5k) 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Justin's HIV Journal: Justin vs. Rosacea

I SO HATE ROSACEA SHE HAS GOTTEN ON MY LAST NERVE!!!!  Okay One day I looked in the mirror and I started seeing redness on my nose.  I didn’t think too much of it because even since I was a teenager my face used to break out every time the seasons change.  It didn’t matter what season it was my face would look like a pizza for a week’s time.  So after a week went by I started see the redness grow from my nose to my cheeks.  I got a little worried because this had never happened to me before.  The infection was really gross, it was red scaly and dry and in some cases there would be little pimples that would show up in the redness.  SO I was really worried at this point.  I consulted my doctor and asked him what he thought the problem was.  He looked at my face and gave me an examination.  He said, “It looks like Rosacea to me”.  I jumped and thought ohh god another infection.  So he prescribed me Metrogel.  I started using Metrogel as my doctor prescribed.  It started to work a little bit but I would still wake up every morning with a rash on my face and redness.  I then started to reach out to people on facebook and my friend Lizzy from ATL said she used a medication called Prosacea.  I did some research and found out it was $8.00 at my local Walmart.  My husband picked it up for me and I started using the same day.  3 days later there is a vast improvement.  Prosacea is a homeopathic topical gel and it is amazing. 
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Acne rosacea
Last reviewed: October 22, 2011.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that makes your face turn red and may cause swelling and skin sores that look like acne.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Rosacea is a harmless condition, but it may cause you to be self-conscious or embarrassed. The cause is not known. You may be more likely to have this if you are
  • Age 30-50
  • Fair-skinned
  • A woman (but men usually have more severe symptoms)
Rosacea involves swelling of the blood vessels just under the skin. It may be associated with other skin disorders (acne vulgaris, seborrhea) or eye disorders (blepharitis, keratitis).
  • Redness of the face
  • Blushing or flushing easily
  • A lot of spider-like blood vessels (telangiectasia) of the face
  • Red nose (called a bulbous nose)
  • Acne-like skin sores that may ooze or crust
  • Burning or stinging feeling in the face
  • Irritated, bloodshot, watery eyes
Signs and tests
Your health care provider can usually diagnose rosacea by performing a physical exam and asking questions about your medical history.
There is no known cure for rosacea.
Your doctor will help you identify the things that make your symptoms worse. These are called triggers. Avoiding your triggers may help you prevent or reduce flare-ups.
Here are some steps that may help ease or prevent symptoms:
  • Avoid sun exposure. Use sunscreen every day.
  • Avoid a lot of activity in hot weather.
  • Try to reduce stress. Try deep breathing, yoga, or other relaxation techniques.
  • Limit spicy foods, alcohol, and hot beverages.
Triggers vary from person to person. Other triggers may include wind, hot baths, cold weather, specific skin products, exercise, or other factors.
  • Antibiotics taken by mouth (such as tetracycline, minocycline, or doxycycline) or applied to the skin (such as metronidazole) may control acne-like skin problems.
  • Other medications (isoretinol or Accutane), which are similar to vitamin A, are stronger alternatives that your doctor or dermatologist might consider.
  • Rosacea is not acne and will not improve with over-the-counter acne treatment.
In severe cases, laser surgery may help reduce the redness. Surgery to remove some swollen nose tissue may also improve your appearance.
Expectations (prognosis)
Rosacea is a harmless condition, but it may cause you to be self-conscious or embarrassed. It may be a long-term (chronic) problem. It cannot be cured, but may be controlled with treatment.
  • Permanent changes in appearance (for example, a red, swollen nose)
  • Loss of self-esteem
  1. Habif TP. Acne, rosacea, and related disorders. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 7.
  2. Goldgar C, Keahey DJ, Houchins J. Treatment Options for Acne Rosacea. Am Fam Phys. 2009 Sep;80(5).
  3. Webster GF. Rosacea. Med Clin North Am. 2009 Nov;93(6):1183-94.

Justin's HIV Journal: International AIDS Conference 2012 & Capital Pride Hero 2012

Pride is a great event no matter where you are, how big your pride gets, or how many organizations are a part of it.  This was a particular special Capital Pride for me.  I was honored as one of five Capital Pride Heroes Award Recipients.  I was so surprised and happy, when I got that call. 
Also I’m being inducted into the DC AIDS Heroes Exhibit at the International AIDS Conference that is happening in Washington DC July 22nd-27th.  I will definitely be there for about two days at the conference because that is all I could afford.  But there is the Gay Men’s Health Summit that I have already registered for and that is separate from the International AIDS Conference, but I will be attending that as well from July 20th-21st.  These events for very informative and I suggest everyone attend.  HIV affects and can infect us all. 
Here are the bios written by Metro Weekly’s Will O’Bryan of all the award recipients:

That gala, the ''Heroes Gala & Silent Auction,'' is Wednesday, May 30, marking the start of Capital Pride, which ends Sunday, June 10, with the Capital Pride Festival. But the celebration of these heroes has already begun.
Barnett, executive director of metro D.C.'s Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), says he learned of the honor about two weeks ago, adding that while the award may be in his name, he ''absolutely'' hopes that it will help with his organization's work.

''It's a huge honor,'' says Barnett. ''My hope it is it will raise awareness of SMYAL's mission.''

Being a hero means, however, that Barnett may have to forgo marching with the SMYAL contingent in the June 9 Capital Pride Parade. Traditionally, a hero rides alone – in a convertible, of course. He has no doubt the SMYAL parade showing, already on track for something big, will be just fine.
''I'll definitely miss being a part of the SMYAL contingent this year, but it's going to be a memorable contingent even if I'm not part of it,'' Barnett promises.

Bell, whose BOI Marketing & Promotions gives D.C. its annual Capital Queer Prom, says she'll miss hitting the parade with her prom peers, but she certainly won't have time to dwell on it. She'll be too busy helping with an array of women's events during Capital Pride, performing at the festival, and on and on. It's that sort of community involvement, though, that's raised her to hero status.

''I'm completely honored to have this award in that, one, I was nominated, and, two, the board selected me,'' Bell says. ''Every year, I'm completely in shock that people continue to notice the work that I do. It's motivation for me to continue what I'm doing. That other people recognize it is absolutely amazing, truly an honor.''

Platte, founder of the DC Cowboys, plans on running back to the cowboys' rolling parade stage after making it through the route on hero duty, saying the parade is enough fun to warrant two or three rides along the route.

With the DC Cowboys dance troupe having entertained in the District and well beyond for nearly two decades, Platte knows what he's talking about. He's enjoyed more than his fair share of Capital Pride festivities. That makes it all the more appropriate that the cowboys have scheduled their last appearance for the Capital Pride Festival, adding even more weight to this special honor.

''I'm truly honored to be recognized for all the good work this organization's done,'' Platte says of his cowboys, stressing that the title of Capital Pride Hero isn't really his alone. ''This honor has to be shared with all the dancers, past and present, and the fans.''

Between being named Capital Pride Hero and the DC Cowboys curtain call, Capital Pride will obviously be an emotional time for Platte. ''It's exciting. It's nerve-wracking. It's sad. It's all the emotions tied together,'' he shares.

There's also good reason for Benecke, co-founder of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), to experience an extra jolt of emotion as she rides the parade route, remembering back nearly 20 years when participated with less jubilation, more determination.

''I will always remember marching in the Capital Pride Parade in 1993 when DADT was being debated, just before C. Dixon Osburn and I founded SLDN, seeing straight colleagues from law school in the crowd applauding the military veterans group I was marching with,'' says Benecke, an Army veteran, of walking with Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America, emphasizing an appreciation of Capital Pride being not just for the LGBT community but for allies as well.

Of course, the award itself is not too shabby.

''The national capital area has been my home for 20 years. D.C. has been a beacon for me,'' she says. ''To have one's community recognize your life's work is deeply gratifying.''

Simply being in Benecke's company as a fellow Capital Pride Hero is also gratifying, says Terry-Smith, just starting service with the volunteer Maryland Defense Force, thrilled to be named with a co-founder of SLDN.

The recognition as hero, however, comes not for defending his state, but largely for helping individuals defend themselves from HIV, or better cope with the virus if already infected. While his service to the community has been recognized by The DC Center, DC Leather Pride and others, Terry-Smith says this particular honor tells him his activism has greater impact than he realized.

''When you receive an award, you think, 'Who's giving it to me? How did my work impact that community?''' says Terry-Smith. ''When you get an award like Capital Pride Hero, you realize you're affecting every LGBTQ person in the D.C. area – transgender, leather, bi, lesbian, twink – everybody. I'm really honored to even be considered. I'm so excited about this.''