Bradford McIntyre apologizes for letting emotions get the better of him as he talks about his upcoming trip to Ottawa.
He tries to hold back tears but speaking becomes difficult and laboured.
Just thinking about his life to date and everything that has led to him being named a recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal is enough to conjure up triumphs, disappointments, tales of life and memories of friends long gone.
He needs a second to compose himself. You can’t really blame him.
Diagnosed with HIV in 1984, McIntyre was first told he’d have six months to live.
Six months turned into 18, 18 turned into two years, which turned into four years.
After spending the better part of a decade in fear and isolation, he had an epiphany in 1994 that set him on a path that will culminate with being awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal in Ottawa Nov. 27 for a lifetime to exceptional commitment to HIV/AIDS work.
“I was standing there and thought of all the people that were doing something in their lives to make a difference,” McIntyre, now 60, recalls. “The only difference between us is that they were doing it and I wasn’t.”
He got on the phone, put himself in the public spotlight and told media how living with the stigmatized infection doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
He started an international HIV/AIDS website, Positively Positive, helping people afflicted with the disease lead healthy lives physically and emotionally.
He’s one of the lucky ones that’s been able to survive long enough for medicine to catch up.
Now, therapies are able to keep viral loads down to miniscule levels and allow patients to lead normal lives.
McIntyre, for example, is happily married to his partner Deni Daviau without much fear of passing the infection on to him.
But it’s not the same everywhere in the world, which is why McIntyre continues to write about HIV health issues to readers around the world.
He never thought he’d be recognized with a national distinction for that work, an honour that has sent his emotions spiraling in all directions.
“I’m doing what I’m doing because of the people that aren’t with us anymore,” he said. “I never wished for, thought up or planned all the things I’ve done in the last 20 years. If someone asked me to speak about my experiences, I just said ‘yes’ and it leads to something else.”
It’s been a memorable trip, one that will officially be recognized next month in the nation’s capital.