November 26, 2011

November 26, 2011

A New Article about Dab the AIDS Bear

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope you had a safe and great week. It was another busy and stressful one for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

There is a new article about Dab the AIDS Bear that you can find at:

Here is a part of the interview:

As 2011 begins to wind down, so does the 30th year of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that swept across the United States and the world in 1981 with so much ferocity that hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives.

Today, an HIV-positive diagnosis is life-changing, but it’s not a death sentence, and many take advances in medicines and care for granted. But not Dab Garner. He’s seen the history of the disease unfold right before his eyes from a perspective very few have; he has been positive since the very early days of the epidemic.

Garner counts himself among the lucky. In 1982 doctors told the then-18-year-old he had GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, the precursor to AIDS) and that he wouldn’t live to see his 19th birthday. Today, Garner is about to turn 50 and is an outspoken HIV/AIDS activist who has made appearances at St. Pete Pride, AIDS Walk St. Petersburg and countless events around the globe.

Living with HIV/AIDS for 30 years is almost unheard of and most, if not all, of the people he knew at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic have died. He credits his survival to luck and genetics. His doctors believe he was born with a gene anomaly that helped him fight he virus for most of his life.

“That was until I had non Hodgekin’s Lymphoma in the 1990s,” he says during a telephone call from his home in Fort Lauderdale.

The chemotherapy required to defeat that disease destroyed the gene anomaly that had kept him healthy for so long. Fortunately, however, medications had evolved enough to sustain Garner’s health, for the most part.

“So far I’m holding my own,” Garner laughs when asked about his current health. “There’s been the cancer—twice—a heart attack and a stroke. A lot of that the doctor blames on my hectic schedule. Plus I’ve participated in so many clinical trial studies to get the medicines we have today.”

Those early days Shortly before his diagnosis in 1982, Garner lost his first partner to AIDS in 1981.

“He was one of the first people to be quarantined because no one knew what it was,” Garner remembers. “It was such a shock and all we knew was that he had GRID. We didn’t know the virus didn’t care about sexuality.”

In 1989 Garner lost his second partner to AIDS complications within three months of the loss of his four-year-old goddaughter, who had been born with the infection.

“That definitely took the wind out of my sails,” Garner says. “But I promised my goddaughter and I promised my partner that I would keep on fighting. I was raised in a Catholic family and was taught we should keep our promises, so here I am.”

It was hard to stay optimistic in the 1980s, recalls Elisa Icaza-Webb, a nurse practitioner in St. Petersburg who has been at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS crisis for more than 25 years.

“Twenty-five or 30 years ago, the news of a positive diagnosis was devastating to people,” says Icaza-Webb. “Everywhere you looked, AIDS was there. It was in the news and people were dying like flies. It was awful.”

For the past three decades, Garner has watched literally thousands of friends die from the disease. In the beginning, AIDS patients were quarantined because healthcare professionals were unaware of the risks related to treating the disease, so Garner started giving his ill friends teddy bears.

“It was a way of giving them some kind of comfort when their friends couldn’t be in the room with them,” Garner says. “From there it just grew.”

Today, Garner has the Dab the AIDS Bear Project, which raises money and awareness surrounding HIV/AIDS Causes.

While he’s pushed his bears for decades, Garner redoubled his efforts in 2003.

“I’ve been speaking in major cities—and especially Washington, D.C.—since the 1980s,” Garner says. “But it picked up in 2003 when the ADAP waiting list grew. That angered me so badly because I have lost over 10,000 friends before we had the medications to keep them alive. The fact that we allowed one person to be on a waiting list for life-saving medications angered me in a way I’d never experienced.”

You can read the rest at the link above.

Hope you have a safe and great weekend.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab