This month’s Community Spotlight is again on Bradford McIntyre.
We want to join him in celebrating the life he was told should have ended within 6 months from November 28 — THIRTY YEARS AGO!
Brad, as you might remember from our September Community Spotlight, is a dear friend of VIDC. A number of our photos (for example, the ones from STRUT 2015 and RR4L 8, to name a few) were taken by him — if there is anything significant happening in the HIV community that we are a part of, we can bet that Brad is already there! Brad’s commitment to the work that he does for the HIV Positive community rivals even our own, and this post sheds some light on what motivates this passion.
This month’s spotlight is a bit different. Not only is it shone on someone we’ve already featured before, but it is also one where we will let the the person speak for himself.
There is no way anything written on VIDC Connect could be as impactful as reading his words for yourself.
Here’s a quick snapshot of some important updates from VIDC.
UBC iCON South Asian CPC
On November 28, 2015 the VIDC team held its third special CPC. VIDC Community Pop-Up Clinics are are constantly evolving to accommodating different communities that would benefit from point-of-care testing for either HIV, HCV, or both. This year we have done a CPC at the World Hepatitis Day Vancouver Event 2015 for attendees, one for the Chinese community at the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Health Fair 2015, and now a one for the South Asian Community. Just like the first two events, VIDC provided point-of-care HCV Testing, FibroScan® Testing, and a specialist consult for those who test positive
As a medical and research clinic, VIDC is involved with a number of clinical trials — specifically trials in HIV and HCV. One of which is AMBER, an AbbVie clinical study focused on treating chronic hepatitis C infection for genotype 1. Consequently, the VIDC team — led by Dr. Brian Conway — successfully enrolled the very first patient for the study.
Clinical studies like these are a very integral part of the cascade of care we provide at VIDC. These studies allow us to further engage patients in care, and provide them access (when applicable) to treatment options that are only available through clinical studies.
Red Ribbons for Life (RR4L)
Red Ribbons for Life 8 last November 29 was a huge success! Community organizations and its supporters, local politicians, pharmaceutical company representatives, and amazing performers came together to help raise money and awareness for HIV.
And of course, VIDC was there to support the cause — and to listen to our President and Medical Director, Dr. Brian Conway, give the keynote speech for the evening.
It was a lovely evening filled with music, laughter, and show-stopping performances shared with friends and family all present to support the fundraising efforts of RR4L.
This month’s community spotlight sheds light on an issue that’s worth celebrating yet heartbreaking. Bradford McIntyre — more commonly known as Brad to us at VIDC — is a friend of VIDC who has successfully outlived the 6-months-to-live diagnosis he was given in 1984.
“New research from the Canadian Observational Cohort Collaboration found the average life expectancy for HIV-positive people receiving antiretroviral therapy is now 65. ” Vancouver Courier (19 Aug 2015)
This is great news! This means we are slowly but surely making great progress in our fight against HIV. However, this also spotlights a new issue: an aging HIV-positive population.
“McIntyre has been a longtime advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and started his website positivelypositive.ca in 2003 to share his story and the latest research. He has a good life and enjoys cooking, gardening and spending time at the beach. But he says aging with the virus comes with its own unique set of challenges. These include health, emotional, financial and social effects. ” Vancouver Courier
Because of the advancements in the field of HIV research, people who were expecting to die at a young age, are now given a new hope — a new hope with a new challenge. That means there is a growing population of more senior individuals living with HIV.
The challenge, however, is not just on the individuals who are now given a shot at a longer (and ideally, a more fruitful) life. Society, at large, is also faced with a new challenge. Because an aging HIV population is a fairly recent phenomenon, our society has yet to catch up with services and infrastructures — and especially the knowledge — to care for and support this growing population. Most importantly, the stigma and discrimination that comes with the virus, is ever so present.
This is the new reality that Brad — along with the rest of society — has to face. All the more reason for Brad to keep doing what he does!
As mentioned earlier, Brad has a blog called positivelypositive.ca where his primarily goal is to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and education.
“I receive thousands of emails from around the world,” says McIntyre. “Oftentimes there’s an individual that has just found out they’re positive and is thinking the worst. Then they find my website and see that I’ve lived all these years and I’m married and it gives them hope.” – -Vancouver Courier
Brad turned a death-sentence into a mission. His website provides information, resources, and — most importantly — hope. Resources like positivelypositive.ca are constant reminders that although stigma and discrimination that come with HIV is very real, there is hope of dispelling them through education and awareness.
It is because of amazing individuals like Brad that we are encouraged to keep doing what we’re doing. People like him remind us that there is hope, and that there are more and more people getting involved with promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, research, education, prevention, etc!
The biggest lesson I learned is that for me to see treatment through, it requires a team that includes doctors, specialists, nurses, receptionists, cohorts, family and friends. And of course, a dog named Charlie. – Suzan Krieger
This month’s Community Spotlight features one of VIDC’s beloved friends: Suzan Krieger. Specifically, it’s about her article on the May-June edition of Positive Living Magazine entitled Hepatitis and Depression: A Personal Take.
Suzan is one of those courageous individuals who successfully overcame the disease and illness and wrote about it. Her article recounts her journey from when she was diagnosed to her full recovery.
Suzan’s journey is far from pleasant, her diagnosis came as a shock that led to depression, the treatment she first received felt like it would kill her before it cures her, and the medical community seemed absent in all of this. After enduring all that, she resigned to letting the virus stay and live with it.
Fortunately, that’s not where her story ends,
A few years later, I went to a workshop put on by Positive Living BC that featured Dr. Brian Conway, the medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre (VIDC) and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal honoree. At the close of the workshop, I spoke with Dr. Conway and explained how I had tried and felt I had lost on my treatment. He gave me his card and with a confident voice said, “I can help.”
Suzan met Dr. Conway and got introduced to VIDC and our commitment to holistic care.
We’ve written about this commitment a couple of times in this blog (here and here), and yet Suzan’s description of the help she received at VIDC deserves its own post.
The VIDC uses open discussion about feelings—treating one with respect and dignity and providing stellar medical care in as comfortable a surrounding as possible. The team’s approach can be thought of as holistic medicine (a form of healing that considers the whole person)—body, mind, spirit, and emotions—in the quest for optimal health and wellness.
It’s one thing for a medical clinic to describe what it aims to do, it’s a whole other thing if an individual who receive that care describes it. Suzan outlines in her piece what role Dr. Conway played in her treatment.
Dr. Conway helped me find Dr. Patricia Howitt, who is now my primary physician ... [Dr.Conway] met with me and explained my new treatment and, week by week, he kept my spirits up and encouraged me that this treatment—this time—would work.
Our HCV Clinical Research Nurse, Shawn Sharma RN also got a special mention,
Shawn Sharma, a registered nurse, set up a conference call with Gilead and my healthcare insurance company, clearing the way for treatment with the new drug, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and ribavirin. The cost of the combination treatment is around $93,000 per year. Sharma also started me on a vitamin program and made himself available to me throughout the three-month treatment program.
However, VIDC isn’t just a two-man team, and Suzan saw that in action too.
The VIDC did everything from blood testing to ultrasound scans. ... VIDC’s waiting room is a wonderful, chaotic haven filled with patients waiting for their turn to be cared for. The staff provides TV, coffee, snacks, information, and support for the waiting room folk.
The reason we keep emphasizing the need and the importance of a holistic approach is precisely because of people like Suzan. Individuals who stuck with us and give us that pat on the shoulder and says “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.” Awards, acclaims, and recognition from anywhere can never compare to a simple heartfelt thank you from people whose lives you’ve touched and changed.
Suzan, thank you for letting VIDC be a part of your journey and for being such a great example to others!
If you want to read Suzan’s full article (WHY WOULDN’T YOU?) click here!