Pride 2014: Bradford McIntyre proudly declares his HIV status to encourage others to get tested
At this year's Vancouver Pride celebrations, Bradford McIntyre marked another milestone in his remarkable life.
The long-term HIV survivor changed the sign he carried in the 2004 parade to reflect that he's still here 30 years since being infected with the retrovirus.
A decade ago, the sign said "20 years".
"I'm in shock that I'm still alive and still here and still doing this," McIntyre told the Georgia Straight shortly before the parade began.
The annual parade is a massive street party for many Vancouverites. McIntyre sees it as a tremendous opportunity for public education about HIV, which killed scores of Vancouverites before effective treatment was developed.
"I nearly died of PCP pneumonia in 1998 and it was the antiretroviral medications that saved my life," McIntyre said. "I've been undetectable since then. I'm not able to transmit."
He explained that the "treatment as prevention" approach pioneered by Dr. Julio Montaner's team at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS has made it possible for HIV-positive people not to infect others.
"So what we need to do is find out who's infected," McIntyre said. "There's 35 million people worldwide that are infected and 19 million people don't know that they are."
This is why McIntyre is so open about declaring his HIV-positive status. It's to get rid of the stigma because he said that it's undermining efforts to counter the epidemic.
He also created the Positivelypositive.ca website to stamp out any shame associated with being HIV positive.
"I'm alive because of Julio Montaner," McIntyre declared. "Treatment as prevention has been accepted in the United States, China, Brazil, France, and now Australia."
He's also not happy that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has never spoken to Canadians about HIV, even as youth, seniors, and people in aboriginal communities continue to be infected.
"We need a prime minister who is going to stand before Canadians and talk to them and educate them about HIV like other world leaders are, like Barack Obama," McIntyre noted. "Not only that, but we need a prime minister who's going to acknowledge Julio Montaner and the Canadian researchers who've worked so hard and are being accepted all around the world, but are not being acknowledged by our own prime minister."
At the 25th anniversary gala dinner of Positive Living B.C. [formerly B.C. Persons With AIDS Society] in 2011, Montaner gave a barn-burning speech condemning the Conservative government's approach to HIV/AIDS, but praising the B.C. Liberals for their more enlightened view of the disease.
"Today, a woman infected with HIV will be told for the first time in three decades, 'Yes, you have a problem. We will actually help you. You will have a normal reproductive life. You will have a child. You will put your child through university. And you will be there to see the graduation'," Montaner said at the time.