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Ottawa Citizen - www.ottawacitizen.com

Bradford McIntyre has emerged
as the face of HIV

By Joanne Laucius, Ottawa Citizen | November 30, 2012

Bradford McIntyre was handed a death sentence 28 years ago. While his journey hasn't been an easy one, he is being honoured for his advocacy efforts, Joanne Laucius writes.

In 1984, Bradford McIntyre was diagnosed with AIDS and was told he had only months left to live.

This week, McIntyre was among 30 people awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his advocacy and awareness in the field of HIV/AIDS.

Bradford McIntyre “came out” as HIV positive in a 1994 interview with the Ottawa Citizen.

“I give a face to HIV so people can see that you can live,” says McIntyre, now 60, who “came out” as HIV positive in a 1994 interview with the Ottawa Citizen. He was back in Ottawa this week to receive his medal on Tuesday night.

A lot has happened since 1984. Now living in Vancouver, where he is vice-chair of the board of AIDS Vancouver, McIntyre regularly gets 150,000 - 200,000 hits each month on his website, PositivelyPositive.ca. He has been with his partner, Deni Daviau, for 13 years and doesn't fear infecting him.

“It's really important that people understand that HIV is not a death sentence. It's one of the reasons why I do what I do.”

McIntyre was a successful hairdresser in Kitchener-Waterloo when he was diagnosed. His doctor told him to get his affairs in order. He moved to Ottawa because he didn't want his friends to watch him die.

There were no drugs to treat HIV at the time, so he took vitamin supplements and boosted his immune system with garlic and shiitake mushrooms.

As the months went on, it became apparent that he was not going to die. He was running out of money, so he went back to work, landing a job as a stylist at the popular Ottawa salon Rinaldo. Even though he considered his colleagues to be family, he didn't dare tell them he had been diagnosed with HIV, even when he found it a challenge to walk up the two steps that led to the salon.

“I called it my Academy Award performance,” says McIntyre, who left the salon in 1994. In 1994, almost a decade after his diagnosis, McIntryre decided to come out in an interview. He has been coming out ever since.

McIntyre's journey has not been an easy one. He started taking AZT, but stopped after 9 months. It caused nerve damage to his legs, which made it impossible for him to work. He has been on disability benefits since 1994.

He has suffered from severe fatigue and shingles and developed near-fatal pneumonia in 1997. His weight has fallen to as low as 128 pounds. In 2004, he had reconstructive surgery on his face because the HIV medication he was taking caused facial wasting.

“Even though we think that HIV is no longer a death sentence, too many people don't have access to the medication,” said McIntyre, who is currently taking two medications, the anti-viral drug Kaletra and Truvada, which can also protect uninfected people from acquiring the virus.

The drugs cost more than $7,000 a month, which in McIntryre's case are covered. He knows that he is very lucky.

“In the U.S., uninsured people can't afford this.”

HIV is now being treated as a chronic illness and not a death sentence. But it is not the same as being healthy, he said.

“People think because we have medications, it has been cured. But taking pills every day is no big fun.

‘Who would have thought I would still be alive to do
all the things I do?’
Vice-Chair, AIDS Vancouver

Sixty million people worldwide have been infected with HIV and 28 million have died of AIDS,” said McIntyre. It is estimated that every two hours a Canadian is infected, and there are currently an estimated 68,000 Canadians living with HIV/AIDS. But people are still being diagnosed too late.

“They find out they're HIV positive when they're sick. The drugs can't save them,” he says.

“I think about all of those people who aren't with us today. There were people who were teenagers or in their 20s. They didn't get to have the life I had.

McIntyre can't help but look back at the last 28 years and be amazed.

“Who would have thought I would still be alive to do all the things I do?” he says.

“I believe we are all connected. I feel like I have a huge family.”


Source: Ottawa Citizen

Posted with the express permission of: "Ottawa Citizen",
a division of Postmedia Network Inc.

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