My name is Justin B. Smith. I'm the writer and producer of Justin's HIV Journal and this is the first time I've written for TheBody.com. I'm so very happy to be here to be able to talk with all of you guys and I hope to be writing here a lot.
A couple years ago I came up with Justin's HIV Journal. I honestly didn't know how I was going to do it or get it off the ground. I was inspired by the way Barack Obama was using the Internet as a tool to get his message out.
I have to admit I had many reservations in putting myself out there like I did. I thought about so many things that people might say about me. I worried for example, that they might say, "He deserves HIV for being gay," or "He slept with men and drank a lot, no wonder he has HIV." It hurts to my soul that people would say such things about me, but I remain strong.
Earlier this year (four years after my diagnosis in 2005) I was interviewed by channel 9 and channel 4 in my area about HIV blogging in Washington, DC. Coming out publically about my HIV has brought me such peace and has lifted a weight off my shoulders.
Going public like this does not mean disclosing to my family was easy (which happened before I got on the Internet). I still think about the dreaded phone call that I received from my stepfather. I didn't want them to find out the way they did (someone told them), but it happened. They were crying and after much talk and understanding, I further educated them about HIV and they educated me as well, by doing research into HIV themselves.
Ironically, even though I'm now disclosing to the world, I did not directly disclose to them. They found out through a mutual friend. A lot of my relatives are supportive, but I have to say that at first they did not like the fact that I was so open about my HIV status. One of my relatives said, "Why would someone put their business out like that?"
Every time she said that I knew she was talking about me. BUT I did a video telling every one of my friends and family members why I was doing what I was doing. AGAIN I will reiterate it to you as well. I feel that I'm doing this for the community and for the world. Being open and honest about your HIV will help others understand it more.
I understand that not everyone can do this. Other people will put their job at risk. I've been very fortunate. I came out at work because I knew I needed to eat during the day more often then someone who is HIV negative. My supervisor was fine with it. I was lucky. So I don't think everyone can do as I have done and disclose to the world...but really it's a good idea to tell someone if you're HIV positive. It really takes a huge weight off.
The first comment that I ever got right after I posted my video was, "So you got poked by a dirty dick." That comment stung and it almost made me take my video down. But when I looked at the other comments, I saw inspiration and encouragement. So I was convinced that, just because one person says something negative, you do not have to react to it, especially if it's based on ignorance or arrogance. The one thing about ignorance is that if you're truly ignorant about HIV, you're not going to ask questions.
Every time I get a positive comment, it washes the negatives away.
The purpose of me doing this video is to raise awareness and push the message of HIV prevention. Everyone has a choice to make when having sex. You have the choice to use a condom or not. I suggest you weigh those options. Think about it....
We ALL have choices. I suggest you make the right one, I didn't.
Be Smart and Be Safe
Justin B. Smith
Justin's HIV Journal
To contact Justin, click here.