McIntyre held a party for his friends last November and
presented each with an award, a gift of crystal. One friend was
honored with Most Instrumental. Another was named Best Support.
McIntyre, 42, has lived with HIV for almost a decade, and to
him it's not a death sentence any more.
The first four years were a living hell, he remembers, mainly
because he was afraid of death. But then, after a friend told
him he had suffered long enough and hard enough, he slapped some
bright paint on his beige apartment walls. He chose to get on
with his life.
Fear is something we create, and he has uncreated it, says McIntyre
as soothing New Age music plays in the background and his turtle
dove Carmen flits along the top of the couch. Facing a life-threatening
illness makes you appreciate life, he says.
McIntyre was diagnosed with the virus linked to AIDS and on Nov.
28th, 1985, given six months to live and told by his doctor to
arrange his finances and funeral. On the anniversary of his diagnosis
every year, he now organizes a party, a celebration of life.
Dr. Gary Garber, head of the AIDS clinic at the Ottawa General
Hospital, says having the human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is
often equated with death, but instead the disease should be regarded
as a chronic illness, during which patients can live full lives.
He says drugs such as preventative antibiotics have helped improve
the life span of AIDS patients, warding off killer infections
Living longer now often means dying later of conditions that
are more difficult to treat, such as AIDS-related dementia and
cancer, he says.
About 10 years after exposure to HIV, only half the patients
have developed full-blown AIDS, and after that patients are alive
for about three to four more years, says Garber.
It's not known why some people live longer than others,
but it's hypothesized they may have less of the virus in
their bodies from the start, or a stronger immune system.
Nine years ago, Brad McIntyre left his home in Kitchener-Waterloo
because he didnt want his family and friends to witness
him suffer through his illness. He came to Ottawa to die; yet he didn't
so he had to find a job.
At Rinaldo's in downtown Ottawa, he found work as a stylist.
He says the drug AZT gave him neuropathy in his legs, insomnia,
headaches and nausea, so he had to quit.
After he went off the drugs, he felt better and returned to work,
but fatigue forced him to quit again. His employer, like his sister
and two brothers, has been understanding, he says.
McIntyre has experienced swollen lymph glands, an infection called
shingles and severe fatigue, but says he has not been diagnosed
with full-blown AIDS.
On disability benefits now, he spends some of his time biking
and walking by the Ottawa River. He had to learn to be strong
as a young teenager when he discovered he was gay: others made
fun of him because he was different.
He's not in a relationship but doesn't miss it because
he gets so much love from friends. "I'm happier than
I have ever been in my life."
His friend Lisa Kenkel, a former client at the hair salon, says
McIntyre has his ups and downs like anyone else, but never asks,
"why me?" She says he takes everything as it comes and
just has a blast. "I've never seen him in a state where he's
given up the struggle," she says.
Now, McIntyre is into alternative treatments such as special
additions to his diet, meditation and visualization, where he
says he "awakens his cellular memory by creating a vibration
of light or energy." He's on a mission to share his
various methods with others which he says are not promoted by
the medical profession.
Garber says some alternative therapies might be beneficial, but
others could be harmful and he feels they should be more vigorously
tested before being espoused.
Serge Beaudoin, a councellor with the AIDS Committee of Ottawa,
says it's tough for AIDS patients to be hopeful when they
begin getting AIDS related infections, but "they go from
one infection to the other heroically." After developing
a severe illness, some people gain a sense of purpose in their
lives, he says.
McIntyre's place is overrun by gifts from friends-golden
deer statuettes, vases, and a plaster of paris replication of
his chest and arms. He has collected stones and placed them in
a pitcher of water to preserve their color.
And what does the future hold? "Oh," he answers with
relish, a smile appearing below his bushy moustache on his tanned
face. "Abundance." On his answering machine, he promises
to get back to you as sure as the sun shines.