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No longer a death sentence

'HIV diagnosis gives man wake-up call'

Doreen Millman's Speech at the 11th International AIDS Conference

Setting an Example and ... Living Positively with HIV

THE GIFT OF AIDS by David R. Patient

The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, October 20, 1994

by Elaine Medline
Health Writer

Brad McIntyre learned he was HIV positive 10 years ago. After fearing death for four years, he decided to get on with his life. For McIntyre, the AIDS virus is...
No longer a death sentence


Brad 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 like pneumonia.

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.


'HIV diagnosis gives man wake-up call'

The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, November 30, 1994
by Susan Riley

If you were given six months to live, how would you spend the time?

For Brad McIntyre, a 42 years-old former hairstylist at Rinaldo's, its not an idle question. Ten years ago this week, McIntyre was told he was HIV positive and had six months to live.

He was advised to tell his family and arrange his funeral. When he didn't die within the allotted time, he was given 18 more months. On Monday, he celebrated another anniversary of that grim diagnosis with 60 friends at a party at the World Exchange Plaza.

Handsome, healthy, and charged with nervous excitement, McIntyre used the occasion to share the emotion and spiritual transformation that has, he says, made him more fully alive than ever.

We don't usually look at AIDS-or any life-threatening illness - as an opportunity. But without diminishing the seriousness of the disease of sentimentalizing its impact, it can be, says McIntyre, "a wake-up call."

One year after his diagnosis, he moved to Ottawa from Kitchener so his loved ones wouldn't have to watch him die. Once here, he avoided close relationships and didn't talk much about his HIV status. Over the last decade, two lovers have left him because "they didn't want to stick around to watch me die. I don't blame them: I might not have stayed myself."

Finally, a female friend challenged him to stop thinking about dying and get on with living. That started a journey that led him to various New Age and eastern therapies.

Power of Love

Three years ago, he stopped taking AZT the anti-AIDS drug AZT - it was making him sick, in any case - and began eating well, meditating, exercising, and practicing Reiki, which emphasizes deep relaxation and the healing power of love.

Healing himself emotionally, he says, made his physical illness easier to except. He didn't detach himself from the illness, as much as think about it differently. He stopped being afraid: he decided, he says, "to show up for my life".

His experience is becoming more common, as people who carry the AIDS virus live longer and look beyond western medicine for relief. There are 955 known cases of HIV infection in Ottawa-Carleton, including 188 new cases this year.

Lately, new infections have stabilized at 104 -160 cases a year, and the number of deaths has dropped remarkably thanks to new drugs, earlier diagnosis and healthy regimes like McIntyre's.

Dr. Geoff Dunkley of the regional health unit says drugs can prolong life, but adds, "The more people are in control of their own treatment, the better they do."

Laya Smith, 37, a Reiki master, says some alternate healers have tried to exploit people with AIDS, but her practice is bases on helping Brad "cohabit with the disease" not deny its existence.

On Thursday, World AIDS Day, local activists will make a human chain across the Interprovincial Bridge at noon. While the political battle for funding and the scientific quest for a vaccine continue, Brad McIntyre pursues his own healing, his own way. It has been a long, and rich, six months.


People worldwide are 'Out About HIV' !
Take a look here !

Doreen Millman's Speech at the 11th International AIDS Conference

Setting an Example and ... Living Positively with HIV
by Christof Maletzky

by David R. Patient

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