When I first met Bob a little more than a year ago I was amazed at how mentally strong he was. Bob was the first person I had ever met, that I knew of, that was HIV positive. His attitude on life really made me think twice about little things that I use to dwell on daily.
His passion and commitment to educating others comes across in his website. Bob knows first hand the facts about the disease. He has dedicated a lot of time and effort to hopefully changing someone else's life for the better through his website.
Through my job I use to only refer to Bob as that guy I did a story on about his life and his fight against HIV. Now a year later, I can call him my friend.
~Mitch Weber - ABC's Channel 27 News
Former POZ Coverboy, Bob Bowers, Rocks On VH1
• By Shawn Decker
Last month I posted a critical observation of VH1’s reality TV show, Couples Therapy. The post was in regard to how cast member Evel Dick’s HIV disclosure (in episode 5, “The Truth is Out There”) was handled. Two weeks ago, however, the show really stepped up when they brought in long-time HIV advocate and AIDS asskicker Bob Bowers to give Dick some words of encouragement. (You can watch full episodes here- but the one referenced in this blog, “Meatball Problems”, won’t be available until Dec 4.)
Bob has been living with HIV for three decades and has a no-nonsense approach to HIV education. He wears his heart on his sleeve, which is an impressive sleeve of ink I must say. I really admire his work, and I applaud Couples Therapy for giving Dick the opportunity to connect with Bob, who casually told his own story, offered his ear to Dick’s concerns and also informed Dick about the facts about HIV transmission for those who take their HIV medications regularly and acquire an undetectable viral load.
I’m sure it was a revelation for Dick- and the issue of transmission, spoken in such detail in a relaxed manner, isn’t something you see on TV very often.
Kudos to Bob, Dick, Dr. Jenn and VH1 for giving people the opportunity to learn more about HIV and how it affects people and their relationships.
Bob Bowers and Evel Dick on VH1's Couples Therapy
On ’Couples Therapy,’ Bob Bowers advises Evel Dick Donato that sex and romance don’t have to end because you test HIV positive.
Bob Bowers and Evel Dick discussing dating while
living with HIV/AIDS on VH1's Couples Therapy.
Looking Back: Over these last thirty years, I feel that the Internet and social media has been one of the biggest game-changers in the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS.
For those of us living with HIV, it has provided a powerful platform to educate and empower ourselves.
It has allowed us to educate others, raise awareness in our communities and around the world, and address head-on the pervasive stigma associated with this disease.
Newly infected, or long-term, our unique stories and experiences matter now more than ever.
As a 38-year survivor and activist, I continue to do my small part.
It’s heartwarming to see many newly diagnosed, along with old-timers, sharing their journeys with HIV.
Looking Forward: Awareness and education remain key.
Stigma can be deadlier than the virus.
While we’ve made amazing progress, HIV/AIDS isn’t over until it’s OVER!
One new infection is one too many. “What If It Were You?”
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Advocates Honor Four Decades of HIV/AIDS Advocacy as A&U Marks Thirty Years of Publication
by Chael Needle
HIV/AIDS activist and long-term survivor Bob Bowers featured on Storybridge.TV
Youth HIV/AIDS educator Bob Bowers speaking Video
Bob Bowers speaks on when to disclose your HIV status
The Generations HIV Online Video Archive is an interactive media endeavor brought to you by THE HIV STORY PROJECT (www.thehivstoryproject.org), based in San Francisco. It features questions, answers and stories by people from all walks of life who have been impacted and affected by the disease. Videos were recorded inside a video booth that has been staged 10+ times since 2010 in San Francisco, Oakland, and Washington, DC. Learn more at http://GenerationsHIV.org.
Bowers says that when he was dating—he’s now married to an HIV-negative woman—he always felt it was his responsibility to disclose up front. He actually found that women’s reactions provided a helpful sort of litmus test. “If that person flipped out or was horribly ignorant,” he says, “that would give me incredible insight into her character.” ~ HIV Plus Magazine
Youth HIV/AIDS educator Bob Bowers sharing his experiences and knowledge as a long-term survivor at North Bend High School in North Bend, Oregon.
SPREADING THE WORD - Preventing HIV is goal of North Bend graduate
Bob Bowers, 50, didn’t think he’d live this long.
He contracted HIV at age 19 when he injected crystal methamphetamine for the first time in a Hollywood hotel. He said the decision was a result of peer pressure and feeling invincible.
“In 1983, it was still a gay man’s disease,” he said.
He didn’t think twice when his girlfriend at the time said they should have sex while high. That one time was all it took for him to contract HIV, he said.
“What 19-year-old wouldn’t feel pressured to try something their girlfriend offered?” he said.
A year later, he went to the doctor with swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. A biopsy of a lymph node in his groin tested positive for “hyperplasia as seen in patients with AIDS.”
Tests for AIDS weren’t readily available until 1985.
That’s when he tested positive for HIV. He was one of the first 14,000 infected with it, he said. About 1 percent of those are still living.
Bowers, a 1981 North Bend High School graduate, has traveled the country since 2000 on “The Black Pearl,” his Harley-Davidson, speaking to groups, mostly young people, about how they can prevent getting HIV.
He visited his alma mater Tuesday and Powers High School on Wednesday. He also plans to attend the homecoming football game at North Bend High School on Friday. It’s the first time he’s been home since graduation. He avoided class reunions.
“This is the grand reunion,” Bowers said. “I’m just letting the flow of the universe take charge.”
Bowers, aka “One Tough Pirate,” said his “faith, hope and spirituality” keep him going.
He’s also on a strong cocktail of drugs. He must take 20 pills, of about 10-15 different medications, three times a day. Among them are chemotherapy-type drugs, in order to keep the HIV symptoms under control. He also must give himself weekly injections of testosterone. The concoction makes him sick with diarrhea, vomiting and other side effects. He also has peripheral neuropathy in his hands and feet. All of it leaves him unable to hold a full-time job.
“It’s the fewest medications I’ve been on,” Bowers said. Although medicine has improved over the years — he used to take about 65 pills — there still isn’t a cure for either HIV or AIDS.
There’s also still a lot of misunderstanding about HIV and AIDS, Bowers said.
When he was first diagnosed, Bowers joined a support group for heterosexuals in the Los Angeles area with only a handful of people. He said many were scared to admit they were infected then and still are now. He said the attitudes toward those with HIV and AIDS remains much the same as it did 30 years ago.
“There’s still that stigma and intolerance,” Bowers said. “People think they can catch it easily.”
It takes receiving significant amounts of infected body fluids to contract HIV, according to aids.gov. The website says it’s contracted during sexual contact, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, injection drug use, occupational exposure, blood transfusion with infected blood or organ transplant.
It’s Bowers’ goal to help educate young people, he said. Students at NBHS said they learned from his talk.
“He was very inspirational,” said Coriane Bohanan, a sophomore. “He was pretty blunt about a lot of things. He helped me understand about it.”
“It was pretty awesome,” said Cassie McCutcheon, a junior. “The fact is that we see this every day and people just don’t do anything about it. They just stay curled up in a ball.”
There’s one thing Bowers wants young people to remember:
“It’s not who you are, it’s what you do that can give you AIDS,” Bowers said.
Insurance and health care
Insurance coverage for those with HIV or AIDS may be easier to obtain now with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Bowers’ private insurance and Medicare help pay for his medicine, he said. He also receives help from the Ryan White Care Act, which helps those with HIV or AIDS who are uninsured or underinsured pay for medicine and care not covered by Medicare or their private insurance.
The Coos County Public Health Department didn’t receive prevention funding for HIV/AIDS in 2010-2011, but continues to offer testing by billing the patient for the nurse’s time.
By the numbers
There were 39 reported cases of HIV and AIDS in 2011 in Coos County, according to the Community Health Assessment Plan for 2013. There was one new case reported in the 2012-2013 year, according to the Coos County Annual Health Plan for that time.
There are 33.4 million people in the world living with HIV or AIDS according to aids.gov. About 1.7 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with HIV since 1981. Of those, 619,000 have died. One in five are unaware they have the disease, according to aids.gov.
Reporter Emily Thornton can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249 or at email@example.com or on Twitter: @EmilyK_Thornton.
Area Students Participate in New
A local leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS takes a powerful message to area high school students.
Bob Bowers is a 23 year survivor of Aids and an HIV - AIDS awareness advocate - today he asked Malcolm Shabazz High Schoolers "What if it were you?"
It's a question that prompts students to think about what they would do and how they would handle HIV.
The program is part of a new awareness campaign and poster contest that uses peer awareness techniques to educate and inform.
Bowers says, "AIDS is still raging on and they need to understand that there is no cure for HIV/AIDS and they need to understand the true complexities and realities that surround the disease itself."
Youth HIV/AIDS educator, and long=term survivor, Bob Bowers with students
from Crescent Valley High School in Oregon.
Speaker uses his story to fight AIDS: Bob Bowers got it from a needle 23 years ago
By THERESA HOGUE
When heavily tattooed Bob Bowers shows up at a high school and announces that his nickname is Pirate, he definitely gets attention from the teens he’s talking to. He knows that his tough-guy appearance wins him respect that a middle-aged guy in a suit with a Powerpoint presentation won’t earn.
But the 44-year-old Bowers needs every ounce of attention he can get, because he’s got a tough message to get out. Bowers has been HIV-positive for 23 years, and has been trying to educate Americans about HIV/AIDS ever since his own diagnosis in the early 1980s.
On Saturday, he’ll come back to his home state to speak in Corvallis at an HIV/AIDS awareness fund-raiser dinner.
Bowers, who graduated from North Bend High School, was 21 years old and living a hard-partying life in Los Angeles when he started feeling sick. His lymph nodes were swollen and he was fighting off fatigue.
“I was doing drugs at the time, so it was hard to tell the difference between being high or being sick,” he said.
Bowers, who had used intravenous drugs, had heard of AIDS but never considered that he was at risk. A doctor’s diagnosis told him differently.
“I was clueless,” Bowers said. His doctor told him to prepare for the worst. At the time, the diagnosis was a death sentence. But fate, and medication, kept him alive while more than 40 of his friends died.
In 1999, when a close friend died from AIDS-related illness, it was “the last straw,” Bowers said. He began dedicating himself to public speaking.
“My biggest gift is not eloquence and big words,” he said. “I’m extremely passionate. I live it, I breathe it.”
Bowers has formed a non-profit organization called HIVictorious, and spends most of his time traveling. His presentation at the Corvallis HIV/AIDS Awareness dinner is the first time he’s had a chance to speak in his home state.
Bowers has been invited to speak by the Corvallis Elks Lodge, where his uncle, David Williams, is a member. Williams said he’s been inspired by the work his nephew has done. He’s also found himself learning through Bowers’ experiences.
“I’ve had my eyes closed (to HIV/AIDS) for years,” Williams said. But now he’s eager to help his nephew with his message.
As for Bowers, he feels that he has helped change lives.
“When you speak the truth you get people to a safe place.”
Dear Bob Bowers,
I adore you! You are so hardcore, you care so much and have a pure drive that we should all be so lucky to have. Thank you for continually sharing and showing how far a reach your work has extended. Anyone who believes one person can't make a difference has never truly tried to make a difference. Your work has inspired many, and theirs in turn has inspired others. Once you start that ball rolling, it's hard to curtail the momentum.
Keep it going. Keep fighting and know that you are just absolutely adored!
Bob Bowers - Houston, Texas
A Day With HIV
Dear Bob Bowers,
Your presentation in the auditorium today was absolutely great. You showed me that there really is hope for those who have HIV/ADS when they have the attitude that you have towards this disease. You show a lot of courage going up in front of people you don't know and talking about this infection. You are the most inspiring speaker I've ever listened to. You never give up and you fight it like it's another day. I really appreciate this experience and I admire your courage through it all.
~ Tom F.
Youth HIV/AIDS educator Bob Bowers is highlighted as one of Madison, Wisconsin's "People Making A Difference" on Channel 27
Dear Mr. Bowers,
Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your story. I was very moved by your speaking. Your story astounds me. I am very inspired at how strong you are and how you are living your life as best as you can! I really appreciate you taking time to come and talk to us and teach us how HIV/AIDS really affects people's lives. I find it amazing and incredible that you have dedicated your life to sharing your story and educating people about HIV/AIDS. You are a remarkable person and I think you have the biggest heart. I hope you feel the best you can and live each day to it's fullest . You have touched me and I will start loving each day even more. I really want you to know that you have so many people that care for you and whenever you are feeling down just remember that. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to our school and speaking.
"Long-Term Survivors are defined as having a HIV/AIDS diagnosis before 1996. They share those earliest and darkest years of the epidemic when there were no effective treatments. Effective treatments were available in 1995-96. Protease inhibitors transformed HIV infection from a “death sentence” to a more chronic but manageable condition."