NAPWA Positive Voice Dab the AIDS Bear's Story
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and we have almost made it through the middle of another work week. The bear and I hope you are having a safe and great week so far.
Recently, NAPWA had AIDS Watch 2011 in Washington, DC. Dab the AIDS Bear has been the unofficial mascot of AIDS Watch since it started many years ago. Almost 400 activists came to DC to advocate for people with HIV and AIDS.
NAPWA decided to honor Dab the AIDS Bear and include the story about the bear in their Positive Voice Newsletter during AIDS Watch:
As AIDSWatch approaches, we are delighted that Dab the AIDS Bear has consented to share his story with us. Dab has been an honored guest and unofficial mascot at AIDSWatch for as many years as there have been AIDSWatches. We also note with pride that Dab's story is Positive Voice's first-ever editorial content from a stuffed animal, and one who can teach us from his own experience that HIV and HIV program funding issues are finally about people.
In 1981, I was just a bear sitting on the shelf at a toy store when a young man named Dab picked me up and took me to the cash register. I could tell by looking at his face , he had been crying. After we left the store, Dab told me I was going to spend some time with a friend of his who was very sick and in quarantine.
A nurse had to take me to his friend because no one was allowed to go into his friend's hospital room except for hospital staff. Even the doctors and nurses wore funny looking outfits when they came in to check on his friend. His friend started crying as he held me because he was scared and alone. A couple of days later, Dab's friend passed away from KS which was caused by something called GRID. Little did I know that GRID would eventually be called HIV.
Three months later, Dab's partner went into the same hospital and was put in quarantine. I spent five days with him before he lost his battle with PCP and it tore out my little bear's heart to watch Dab and his partner not be able to be there for each other. So I gave him as much love and comfort as I could.
The next thing I knew Dab was admitted to the same quarantine area a few months later. I spent day and night watching over him and giving his all the love and comfort I could muster. Luckily, he was one of the first people with GRID to make it out of the hospital alive.
For the first 15 years of the epidemic, I had the privilege of meeting a lot of other people with the same virus and being there for them. Unfortunately most of them never made it out of the hospital.
I have gotten to lead a very special life being at many events like the first Candlelight Vigil, the ground breaking of the National AIDS Garden and ACTUp meetings in San Francisco. I got to go with Dab to work with other activists who were meeting with elected officials about HIV, working with Senator Kennedy to lobby for what ended up being Ryan White funding and speaking before Congress.
I also was lucky to get to know a very special little girl named Candace. She was one of the first children born with HIV. Because no one wanted a child with HIV in the mid 80s, Dab and his second partner Brad were asked to be god-fathers to the little girl because her mother had passed away shortly after child birth and no one knew who her father way. For five years, I got to be the little girl's best friend. Around this time was also when Dab gave me a red ribbon pin to wear.
Candace passed away in 1989 and I remember Dab making a promise to her to make other children like her feel special and loved like he had done with her. So he started doing holiday parties called Teddy Bear Touchdowns for children with HIV and AIDS where every child gets a teddy bear and at least one other gift. Most of these children are in orphanages, single parent households, foster care or living with relatives. Most of them would not have received presents during the holidays if not for the parties.
In the late 80s, Dab told me he was going to give a bunch of other bears just like me to friends in other states who were dealing with HIV. So all the bears started traveling all over the United States and bringing hope and comfort to those living with HIV. Throughout the 90s, Dab and I stayed busy advocating and helping people in our community on a local and national basis. We even participated in clinical trial studies at the National Institute of Health. Then in the mid 90s, new kinds of medicines to help battle HIV became available and made it possible for people to live with the virus much longer.
Today, I continue to travel with Dab to AIDS Walks, AIDS rides, LGBT prides, HIV/AIDS conferences, HIV cruises, fund raisers and other events around the world. I have appeared on CNN Headlines News, CNN Newsroom, 60 minutes, POZ Magazine, HIV Plus Magazine, the Body, POZIAM Radio, Who's Positive Radio, AIDS Beacon, Positively Aware and various local newspapers and news broadcasts.
But I most enjoy our yearly Teddy Bear Touchdowns events for the children around the world. The best present a bear can receive is the love and hugs from the kids every year.
On March 21, 2011; I turn 30 years old and am looking forward to the birthday party Dab and his friends are throwing for me. It was supposed to be a surprise so please do not tell Dab I know about it.
For more information about me or to get your own Dab the AIDS Bear , you can see my website at: http://www.dabtheaidsbearproject.com.
Many thanks to our friends at NAPWA for all their help over the years spreading the hope of Dab the AIDS Bear and our mission to help people with HIV and AIDS.
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,