Justin's HIV Journal

Friday, August 9, 2013

MISTER My Status Doesn't Define Me (Chandler Bearden)


My Status Doesn't Define Me

I have been living with HIV for over 10 years.

When I first found out that I was infected, it did redefine my life.

Initially, I was lost. I was fortunate to know enough about HIV that I knew it was possible to live with… although my impression was still based on the experiences of those who lived with the disease in the beginning. I was afraid I was on a path of rapid decline. I saw a future of being sick frequently. I saw a future of shame. I saw a future of darkness and, for a while, I didn’t see a future at all.

I lived in fear of myself and others. I tried to ignore it and pass my time quietly. My decision at the time was to disappear. My choices led me down a path ofisolation; I lost my friends, my jobs, and my home. I knew the streets well for some time. All of these losses were nothing in comparison the loss of myself in the process.

And then I felt love. Not from or for myself, but from those who chose to step back into my life and lift me up out of myself and my despair. My family and my friends all brought truth back to my thoughts and breathed new life into my journey.

I knew nothing of how to receive care for my condition. I didn’t have insurance or even a job at the time. It took a lot of research and we all worked together to find a healing path. Finally, I located a center that offered care with funding through the Ryan White program. I made my way to healthier living. Just getting the care I needed for my physical condition raised my spirits. The staff of the clinic were supportive and didn’t judge me, they just helped me and encouraged me.

I returned to work and began returning to life. I built a network, carefully, of friends and professionals who helped me work though my insecurities and find myself again.

As my network grew and resources came available like counseling and support groups, I finally reached a point whereI could walk on my own. I began working to help others who needed to find their feet and their path.

Today, my HIV status no longer defines me. It is simply part of the whole picture of who I am. Today I am more than my status. I am a friend, a partner, a son, an uncle, a performer and an advocate.

I have dedicated my life and my work to bringing these services to those who need them, so they don’t have to wait and lose and seek for any level of acceptance, care or hope.

I walk for those who haven’t found their feet. I walk for those who are seeking a path and I walk for me.

My name is Chandler Bearden, and I work for the MISTER Center of Positive Impact reaching out the community to educate, advocate and provide a gateway to world of assistance that many don't know exist.

Please show your support by donating to the Atlanta AIDS Walk today, so that one day, others may walk with me.

Click here to donate.


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Every dollar helps.

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‎A&U Magazine Advice Column Just*in Time Justin on Dating & Disclosure & A SURPRISE ENDING

I’m sure you get lots of messages, but wanted to say thanks for your videos and really good support they have given me. Every little bit helps. People like you are so needed. I got into the “system” by a surprise HIV diagnosis a month ago; it’s been tougher than I thought but I’m stronger than I expected so it’s okay. You’re one of three people who have put really good things on-line. It is strange almost because through work I come across stories about HIV and things all the time. I work in the Web hosting department for a U.S. TV/media company so I will hopefully be over in the U.S. soon, and, actually, I have a “brother” (from another mother) in L.A., where I go a lot. I love how the U.S. has changed attitudes and hope to be there for good one day. London is okay but getting too crowded and, being Swedish, I miss nature and the ocean. I do have just a quick question; maybe there is no easy answer. Suppose one meets a guy and everything goes really well but you need to tell him about the little blue devils (you know what I mean). Ugh, I should have said it upfront. One of my mates said, “You tell and if he doesn’t understand then he won’t be right anyway.”
—Joney  London, United Kingdom

Joney Your friend is right. I think the proper thing to do in these matters is to disclose, especially if you’ve already been intimate. But why not disclose before you’re intimate so that he knows what he is getting himself into? Not saying that having a partner who is HIV-positive is an issue, but to start off open and honest about your status is, in my opinion, the right thing to do. There is also a time and place to do everything. I suggest that you may want to feel around the question about HIV and see if he is okay with it by either coming straight out and telling him or being very cautious. There are many different ways to tell someone but be careful, especially if you have already been intimate. I don’t know what the laws are in the U.K. but we here in the United States have what we call HIV criminalization laws. These laws persecute anyone who doesn’t tell their sexual partners that they themselves are HIV-positive. If he doesn’t understand that, then don’t worry about it; I know there are plenty of men in the sea (or the English Channel) for you. Also make sure you take care of yourself and go to the doctor. A new HIV-positive diagnosis can make people feel like HIV is something they can write off. Take care of yourself first. You cannot take care of anyone unless you take care of yourself first. -Justin


Hey Joney,
How’s it going with the HIV diagnosis and did my advice help?

Justin, People get complacent with HIV and I think it’s no big deal but in my case it caused early inflammation of the brain. I have had terrible headaches for the past months and they finally put me on meds now and hopefully they will improve. I nearly panicked at the waiting room for the meds, realizing this is really happening, and, when I took them for the first time, it really, really sunk in because in the back of my head there was always a slight denial that maybe I didn’t have it. Now I feel great relief; this thing is being taken care of and I can live my life again. Now about the boyfriend: I told him and he is fine and wants to marry me. Thank you for asking me it means a lot. The only problem is I was going to leave London—now I’m rethinking all of it. I know it’s silly giving up my dreams of L.A. for a man but I think he’s worth it.

#‎JustinBTerrySmith‬ on Dating & Disclosure & A SURPRISE ENDING....the latest ‪#‎JustinTime‬ Advice Column. Links to A&U Magazine Advice Column Just*in Time http://bit.ly/15RWkmr

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.