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HIV Positive and Past 50: Words of Wisdom to My Newly Diagnosed, Younger Self


Dab Garner, 50, Wilton Manors, Fla.; Diagnosed in 1982

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."

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See Also
More Personal Accounts of Older People With HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: dave (nyc) Tue., Dec. 13, 2016 at 1:32 pm UTC
there was not test for HIV in 1982. i understand that someone could "deduce" the GRID infection from a patients illness patterns but to be "diagnosed" in 1982 is HISTORICALLY IMPOSSIBLE. jeez.. Medications were not available till much later (87) so what is this about? what a mess. i was there. NO ONE considered the issues that Dab is talking about back then. We were way too busy burying our friends and planning our own funerals. I just don't get it..
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Comment by: Under Cover (Queens,NY) Wed., Nov. 18, 2015 at 8:40 am UTC
I commend all of u who have come forward 2 tell ur brave stories. I'm not infected, but have had people extremely close 2 me that has lost the battle, but the fight is still on, and I'm proud of u all for being true soldiers in this war.
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Comment by: david jamies (ca) Wed., Oct. 9, 2013 at 12:46 am UTC
Do I have HIV
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Pete Bromley-Spiegle (Birmingham, Al) Wed., Oct. 26, 2016 at 10:47 pm UTC
If you are posing such a question have U been exposed and are supposing it might be possible ?
If that be the case I suggest that U locate the local Aids Service organization and check to see if they give the Orasure test which will be done in confidence and kept confidential as well .
If the test should turn out that you are poz ( positive ) then U should make an appointment with your doctor for more detailed tests and that way you will know for sure and better able to formulate a plan of health care for the future .

Comment by: Zendemented (Big Island, Hawaii) Sat., Jan. 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm UTC
In 1996, at age 55, my doctor suggested yet another HIV test. This time I had numb feet, and thought it might have been diabetes, which I had been developing, being overweight and sedentary. It was positive. How could it be? I'd had at least 4 tests that were negative in the last dozen years. CD4s at 137-go directly to AIDS. Oh, well. Two years left. I spent down and got on welfare (the humiliation) and ready to die. Two years later a new regimen turned my health around. Got a job doing medical transcription for the next 16 years. What is bad is that though my health is okay my finances are in the sewer. I couldn't quit spending money and ran up my cards to a great extent.

The transcription job prolonged my life. I learned a lot of medicine. It didn't pay for beans--doctors are so tight. But it kept me in some sort of discipline.

Now 71 and just got over bad pneumonia that thankfully disclosed my terrible anemia and loss of red blood cells due to lymphoma or AIDS. Down from 275 to 230 and feel okay. Some arthritis, depression, fatigue.

Be careful what you ask for: "Please, God, make this ELISA come out negative." And he did, X 4 false negative.

I never did ask to live forever, and if it were my time, well, I would go. I never pray as I don't think a god out there is ready to listen. As a Buddhist of 53 years I don't believe in prayer, but meditation helps. I say I don't believe in prayer but I did ask for help when ELISA came to call. I also ask for help when the front tire on my BMW motorcycle blew out. Foxhole religion.

It has been very strange and ironic. Just go from day to day with only your nose on your path and don't worry about tomorrow. I was once middle class and now poor as can be. I'd like to get married but John and I both have properties and it would screw up the VA insurance. So, from the first, not one thing is. I only cry for money--my Prius, La Hinayana, needs a new lithium ion battery.
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