National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS: 30 Years Strong!
Together We Will Win campaign
July 15, 2011 - I found out that I was infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) sometime in 1984.
The day that stands out most for me is November 28th 1985. On that day, I was told by an AIDS specialist, at McMaster University
Hospital, in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), to go home, inform my family, arrange my finances and funeral. I had six months to
live! Soon after, I left my job and moved far away from friends and family so that no one would see me get sick or die.
However, I didn't die!
During those years, when I hid my HIV status and lived far from family and friends I missed out on a normal lifestyle.
Years, when I could have been close to those I love, were spent instead living in sombre isolation.
What was I thinking? I was deciding for others; deciding what others could or could not handle, what they could
or could not know, instead of letting people make up their own minds. All those years of hiding the fact that I am infected with HIV
are far behind me!
Twenty-seven years later I'm still here. My CD4 count (immune system indicator) is strong at 1050. I first started
antiretroviral medications in 1997 and since then, my viral load has been undetectable.
My illness showed me how uniquely destructive AIDS is. I discovered that the emotional distress, which accompanies HIV
infection or AIDS can be almost as debilitating as the disease itself. One of the most important facts I learned is that the belief
that everyone with HIV infection dies of AIDS is not true.
In the early years, there was little understanding of HIV. A misguided belief existed that an HIV infection was an automatic
death sentence. HIV/AIDS can cause death, but more often NOW, it is thought to be similar to a chronic illness, manageable and treatable.
Antiretroviral therapies (ART) suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease. As shown in a recent study by
the HIV Prevention Trials Network, initiation of antiretroviral
treatment substantially protects uninfected sexual partners from acquiring HIV infection.
The truth is that people infected with HIV can and do live normal lives. They go to school, have careers, marry, have children
and much more!
These years spent cohabiting with HIV have taught me a great deal. I learned about my body, mind and spirit. I chose a healthy
lifestyle and worked at being responsible for how I think and feel and what I put into my body. I exercise my mind, my spirit and my
physical body. It is important to keep the body strong and healthy.
The ONLY way to determine how HIV is reacting in your body is through regular blood work! This important knowledge of the
effects of HIV, allows you and your physician to closely monitor your personal health status. You are better prepared to understand
and address health issues. Often, people wait too long before getting tested and/or starting HIV/AIDS medications. Knowledge is the
key weapon to create a positive impact on our health.
By using every available means, the more likely we are to SURVIVE!
In 1994, I announced publicly on national television (in Canada) that I was living with HIV. For me, there is more power
in people knowing the truth than there ever was in the fear and hiding. I did not experience any negative repercussions following my
coming out publicly about being infected with HIV. This freed me from the burden of hiding that I'm HIV positive, giving me the
freedom to truly be myself. My coming out publicly evolved and grew, which has been an extremely rewarding and liberating experience.
Since 1994, whenever possible, I have volunteered my time and energy to participate in HIV and AIDS causes. In 2003, I launched
my website, PositivelyPositive.ca, which creates awareness around the many HIV and AIDS
issues and promotes messages of positive living with HIV. It is my way of giving back to the community and gives me a strong sense of
Currently, I am on the Board of Directors of AIDS Vancouver, which
was founded in 1983 as the first AIDS service organization in Canada.
Happily, at 59 years of age, I am married to a wonderful man and grateful to be alive and healthy. Positively positive. living with HIV/AIDS!
Bradford McIntyre, Vancouver, Canada
National Black Leadership Commission On HIV/AIDS
The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.'s (NBLCA) mission is to educate, mobilize, and
empower Black leaders, including clergy, elected officials, medical practitioners, business professionals, social
policy experts, and the media, to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local
communities. The NBLCA, founded in November 1987, is the oldest and largest not-for-profit organization of its
kind in the United States. The NBLCA conducts policy, research and advocacy on HIV/AIDS and other health
disparities to ensure effective participation of our leadership in all policy and resource allocation decisions
impacting communities of African descent nationwide. The NBLCA has established affiliates in cities where
African-American communities are hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including New York City, Nassau
County (LI, NY), Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, Tampa, and Washington, D.C. nblca.org
"Reproduced with permission - National Black Leadership Commission On HIV/AIDS"
National Black Leadership Commission On HIV/AIDS