You may be familiar with Justin B. Terry-Smith, the Maryland-based activist, writer and vlogger. Justin's HIV Journal is a YouTube-based series where he discuss living with HIV, prevention, health tips and gay rights. Justin candidly shares his "Journey to Self-Esteem" in the latest Black AIDS Weekly:
Developing a sense of my own self-worth hasn't been easy. And becoming infected with HIV is part of the price I've paid for not having it earlier.... When I think of the most tragic parts of my life, hearing such homophobic messages ranks with learning that I was HIV-positive, and it contributed to my low self-esteem. Deep inside I was dying, and even though I tried to act strong, the pressures got to me. Afraid of being called faggot or sissy--and not realizing the ramifications for others or myself--I began living a lie and dating a very sweet girlfriend.
I battled my sexuality and sexual identification, unaware that impersonating others would lower my sense of self-worth. had low self-esteem and engaged in risky behavior, whether unprotected sex, excessive drinking or drugs. I wanted to feel the love and acceptance that I should have felt while growing up. Sadly, I found it too late: I was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2006. Unfortunately, I wasn't alone; six of my friends also tested positive. Only three of us are living today. I think of my friends often--living and deceased--as I consider how much life has changed.
Justin, who recently married his partner, also shares his journey to self-esteem and living positive on HIV+ME, the LOGO series hosted by Ongina Ryan from RuPaul's Drag Race (above). It's an amazing story and Justin should be applauded for his honesty and empowering message. Read the full essay at BAW and watch the clip AFTER THE JUMP ...