Bradford McIntyre shares his story from breakdown to breakthrough, emerging as an HIV activist and positive voice for 20 years. A journey from the fear of stigmatization to standing onstage accepting the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for excellence in the field of HIV/AIDS in Canada.
Transcript: Living Positive Bradford`s Story
In 1980, I was living in Kitchener/Waterloo, I was a hairstylist in a successful salon. I had been in a relationship for
nearly a decade and that relationship ended. The first person that I had intimate relationships with infected me with HIV. I don't believe at the time that they
knew that they were HIV positive.
I was concerned that if my clients found
out that I was HIV positive that I would lose my clients, maybe even lose my job. I actually heard about a clinic that was going to open at
McMaster University Hospital. Within just a few minutes of going into the doctor's
office, the doctor said you should go home and inform family, arranged your finances and
funeral, you have six months to live.
I had started a new relationship and I had to drive home and tell my partner that I was HIV+. My new partner
didn't want to stick around and wait and see me get sick and die and so he left. I was devastated, I was very
afraid of anyone finding out that I was HIV +, which when I think about it now, I'm a gay man
who never ever hid the fact that I was gay, and yet, when I found out that I was
HIV positive because of the stigma associated around HIV and AIDS, I
actually did stigmatizing myself and took on that fear.
I moved to Ottawa so that no one would see me get sick. My money ran out and I didn't get sick, then
finally realized I'm still here and am I going to continue to sit here and wait
to die or am I going to get on with my life. So I started to read self-help books and go
to workshops, think and feel more positive about myself.
After being on medications and starting to feel better,
one of my friends came and said that she got a job in Vancouver and that her
company was paying to move all their belongings, except she needed to get her
car to Vancouver. I had been in bed for four months so I said I'll drive your car.
Her company gave me an American Express, an American Express gold card,
for gas, hotel and food. I spent three weeks traveling across the United States,
staying in hotels and cottages and camps and tents, and flying planes and
riding in boats, and really just healing mentally and emotionally on my journey.
I landed in Vancouver and while here I really learned that care
here was far superior from what was available in Ontario. Last day, I was on a
lookout on the Burrard Street Bridge. I thought about all the different people
that I knew that we're making a difference. All of those people that were HIV positive
and were breaking down the barriers of stigma and discrimination, in their own lives as
well as for the sake of others. And it came to me that the only difference between them
and anybody else was that they were doing something. So I said when I get home to Ottawa,
I'm going to contact the media, and let them know that I'm HIV positive nearly a decade
and healthy, and if I can I'd like to move to Vancouver. And all that did come to pass.
It was a breath of fresh air to be out about HIV, I really did start to truly live
100% my own truth. Next thing I knew, I was doing a newspaper article and on the
television, on CTV. One thing led to another, when people found out that I was HIV positive
and out about being HIV positive, then I was invited to do different things. It turned out that I
was on The Dini Petty Show for World AIDS Day, so I came out nationally.
Everything fell into place in order for me to be able to move to Vancouver. In 1995, I moved here.
I sought out those organizations that I had visited when I was just visiting Vancouver. AIDS Vancouver
had a grocery, I was able to provide a roof over my head but actually after the expenses of rent
and utilities I only had about $40 a month to live on. I really depended on AIDS Vancouver groceries
which were a mainstay in my house, as well as, Friends For Life because they did breakfast on Mondays,
lunch on Wednesdays, and dinner with mom on Sundays.
In 2000, I met my partner Deni. In 2001, we were married at St. John's United Church.
I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for all of the many many people that are in life.
And it is my relationship with my partner that I believe gives me that extra will to fight and
get through everything that comes along. I've been HIV positive for 29 years (since 1984) and I have been through a lot. I'm 61 years old
and I have been on my deathbed many times. I have chronic health problems
that are both related to HIV and the medications. Without Deni, I don't think that I would be alive today.
In 2012, I received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for excellence in the field of
HIV/AIDS in Canada. From the time that I found out that I was going to receive the Medal, it was
very emotional for me. In as much as it was a wonderful honor to receive the Medal, there was a saddness
that all those people had actually died of AIDS and that even though I'm still here and alive,
I can't help but think of them. And I wouldn't be here either if it wasn't for all those people who
fought and changed laws and cared for people that were HIV positive so when I did come out about
being HIV positive that I didn't lose my home, I didn't lose my job, my family didn't disown me.
The 30 30 Campaign
The 30 30 campaign was created in 2013 to celebrate AIDS Vancouver's 30th anniversary. The campaign pieces together the dynamic history of HIV in Vancouver, told by and for those who where there. 3030.AIDSVancouver.org Watch all of The 30 30 Campaign Videos here http://3030.aidsvancouver.org/