Sometimes I get personal e-mails about my blog and I haven't really shared them with you all. But I think I will start to do so, but of course changing the names so that I protect people's identities.
I received this e-mail from a woman I'm going to call Amanda. She and her son discovered he was HIV positive and this letter made me cry ... twice.
I have spent the last two hours listening to your YouTube blog. I just want to tell you how much of a blessing your words have been. My son (______) and I learned two weeks ago that he has HIV. Life has been a roller coaster since then, as you well know. We have seen so many doctors and specialists that my head and his is spinning. He is so sick right now that he can't see this disease as anything but a death sentence. He had outpatient surgery Thursday for an infection related to the disease, and his plans to start school on Tuesday have had to be put off. Right now, he is feeling pretty hopeless. Right now, he doesn't want anyone but me and his step-dad to know about his diagnosis. I see his daily depression getting worse and worse. I mentioned he might consider therapy when he feels better, but he worries that he will run into someone he knows. I know I can't be his sole support. I feel like I would like to find support, but I wouldn't want to "out" him in any way. He has had more confusion and angst about admitting he is gay than I did in telling people my son was gay. It is not my secret to tell, but I pray he can someday feel confident enough to share what he is going through. Meanwhile, I want to do what I can with my limited knowledge. So, in my effort to see what was out there, I started Googling, "living with HIV," your videos came up on the screen. I was terrified that your story would be a story of hopelessness. How amazing was it to find that your message was that of hope.
I plan to share your videos with my son, ______. I hope they will inspire him the way they inspired me. I read somewhere that there were people who sent you ugly emails and you considered stopping. I hope you don't. Because your videos were there, you helped a frightened mom see that HIV does not mean the end. I can now say to my son without hesitation, "See, Justin is out there living and loving. He's fighting HIV and he is WINNING!" Thank you so much for telling your story and thank you for being a living testament to Moms and young men who are new to this fight. Today, you were my Moses leading me out of the darkness. Be blessed, Justin.
This was so moving to me ...
To her son I say don't give up; stay in the game. You mother is trying and she loves you very much. Be gentle with her -- you will need her and she will need you. Stay strong.
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Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)
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