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Moving Forward

by Bradford McIntyre

While living in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario, I learned I had been infected with the HIV virus. Swollen lymph glands, and every test except HIV, led my doctor to advise me to be tested. With the HIV results coming up positive for the virus and, the stigma attached to AIDS at the time, I choose to go to another city and find out more information and what to do about it. I decided to go to Hamilton where I didn’t know anyone. McMaster University Hospital was opening a new HIV/AIDS clinic and, I would be one of the first patients.


On November 28th, 1985, at McMaster University Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, I was told by an AIDS specialist- to go home and inform my family, arrange my finances and funeral, I had six months to live. Needless to say, those first six months were hell and filled with fear, but I did not die. Given 18 months after that, then two to three years, and even then, possibly five. Life during those first four years of living with HIV/AIDS became years of fear of dying and loss. Loss of friends, family, career, home, partner and health.


I am an advocate for active health and have been involved in many aspects of healing mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, my own and others. My illness showed me how uniquely destructive AIDS is. I also discovered the emotional distress that accompanies AIDS can be almost as debilitating as the illness itself. Because of this realization, I began to study the effect emotions have on the onset and course of the disease. One of the most important facts I learned is: the belief that everyone with HIV infection dies of AIDS, is a dreadful myth. HIV/AIDS can cause death, but more often NOW, thought to be more like that of a chronic illness, and treatable. The truth is that there are people today to whom HIV/AIDS has not caused death. This information brings joy and hope to the heart of any person who has ever dreaded the onset of HIV/AIDS.


I was told the virus would kill me. Repeatedly this is expressed to myself and others during discussions with physicians. Patients coming out of doctors offices and AIDS clinics teary eyed, faced with fear, conveyed by physicians. However, I do not feel this is proper dialogue. This kind of dialogue does conjure up fear in most individuals, affecting them psychologically as well as physically. AIDS patients don't have to be hopeless, helpless and passive in the face of the illness. There are many actions they can take as partners with their physicians which are likely to improve the quality of their lives and, may increase the possibility of good health or recovery. Isn't this liberating and empowering? AIDS patients can use many tools to join with their physician in the fight for recovery. Nutrition, exercise, supplements, alternative therapies, using guided imagery, controlling stress, avoiding pain, making plans for the future and, many others that may have a positive effect on the course of the illness.


There are individuals who may never develop HIV opportunistic infections or disease for many years, or ever. But they are fewer than those cases having to live with the roller coaster of high and low energy, of ups and downs of HIV related health problems-fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, neuropathy as well as illness from side effects of the HIV/AIDS medications. These "cocktails" are no fun as anyone on them will confirm. In general, health becomes a full time job to stay well and alive. I know, I have been living with HIV going on 17 years. Moving forward each time, searching for whatever means and tools required to be healthy, and continue to show up for life!


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