Dab Garner, 50, Wilton Manors, Fla.; Diagnosed in 1982
Since I was diagnosed at the very beginning of HIV (when it was still called GRID), I would tell myself, "Don't listen to the doctors when they say you have less than a few weeks to live. You are going to be one of the few lucky ones who live until HIV medications really work. Because you are going to be around much longer than anyone ever thought possible, you should take care of your body as much as possible, since living most of your life with HIV and the medications are going to present their own consequences and health problems in the long term."
I would also tell myself, "Keep giving teddy bears to people to let them know they are loved. What starts as a simple act of compassion and love to your first partners and friends ends up growing into something very powerful, which helps people around the world living with HIV/AIDS. Dab the AIDS Bear helps many people find their own voice as advocates, and inspires them to be active in HIV awareness, education and prevention. Many people will end up traveling the world with their own bear, sharing the bear's message while taking pictures at events, helping to erase stigma one picture at a time. Most important, the bears continue to be a symbol of love, hope and compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS."