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Show me a man with a tattoo and I'll show you a man with an interesting past.

~Jack London - 1883

bob bowers tattoos hiv aids survivor houston texas


Dearest Bob,

You take every life experience and seem to be fully affected by it. You allow yourself to learn, grow, feel and express. So far you have called from camp sobbing with such real tears and sorrow about the tribute ceremony for campers-children-who have died. Then, you call with a smile so bright and a pride and joy from achieving your 'tight rope' adventure. My point being you take risk and you're real. I am so happy for your summer experience. Especially the mutual benefits and gifts you will bring to the campers and they will surely bring to you. I am blessed to know you, to care about you and to be amazed, impressed and idolize-in the most normal sense-you! You must know you're the source of my inspiration, my passion and life's work.


All My Love,

Erin Michelle


In celebration of my 23rd year of living with HIV/AIDS, and my 43rd birthday, I got my Phoenix tattoo! Smooth FX consulted with me and custom designed this most remarkable back piece. It covers the majority of my back and took multiple sittings.  I have just over 20 hours invested in this. For me, the Phoenix symbolizes life, rising up to fight, and my will to survive. It is a strong and poignant tribute to honor all those who have blessed my journey and continue to watch over me from above. Thank you to Rebecca Venn for instilling in me such a remarkable life lesson! Thank you to my friends who also contributed to making this piece possible, I am eternally grateful. Thank you to "Smooth" for bringing this vision to life in grand fashion!

phoenix tattoo back piece bob bowers


Hi, Bob!

I just wanted to say thank you SO MUCH for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come & visit me on Saturday. I'm so glad the weather was nice, and I had SUCH a great time. I had forgotten what a playful and fun person you are. We used to have so much fun in the WOW class with you, I remember being so bummed when you left. But I'm really glad that we have stayed in touch and I'm even more thrilled that things are going well for you, and you're feeling good. Y'know, I had wanted to tell you this before, but we were gabbing about so many things. Have you ever heard that country song by Tim McGraw, where he sings about being diagnosed with cancer, and how that prompted him to 'live' more? Do you know that song? It reminds me of you every time I hear it. You are the epitome of the chorus he sings "I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went 6.2 on a bull named Fu Man Chu............. I hope someday you get the chance to live like you were dying." Did he ever meet you? I think he wrote that song for you. = )

You are a reminder to everyone you meet how precious and tenuous every day we have on earth. Your energy, enthusiasm, and positivity are truly contagious. I wish there were more people in the world with a heart as big as yours. You really are an amazing person, and I am so blessed to know you and call you friend.

Love & Peace,

bob bowers tattoos hiv aids survivors full sleeve tattoo
bob bowers tattoos hiv aids survivors full sleeves chest plates

"We are not lepers or indispensable; we are brothers, sister, sons, daughters, parents, and yes, even grandparents who for one reason or another were infected with the AIDS virus. The “H” in HIV stands for Human. 

~ Bob Bowers

"I can't even begin to put to words what it is like to be on the other side of AIDS documentary film/movie-The Fire Within on long term HIV/AIDS survivor Bob Bowers the camera when someone you have grown to love and care about is puking for 40minutes straight and you can't put the camera down to rub their back or get them water...

Bob knew I had fought my own mental, emotional and physical war so he trusted me and he let me in...

I have grown as a human being in ways I could have never imagined in the last three years. My heart and soul have been ripped wide open and I am so grateful to the Bowers for teaching me so much.

I hope this documentary film will not only educate but also inspire people around the world to look openly at whatever challenges they face and to appreciate every day-for life is a gift."

- Dr. Leanne Whitney

I have been living with HIV/AIDS for 39 years.


In 1983, I was infected from sharing a syringe to inject crystal meth and was launched into a reality I never would have dreamed of. In 1984 I was told I had cancer or 'this thing called AIDS' and to prepare for the worst.

I am serious about prevention, education, reducing stigma, raising awareness and funds in the fight against AIDS in the United States and beyond.


I speak passionately about the disregard we too often have for our most marginalized youth and adults and the dire need to address issues such as racism, homophobia, addiction and poverty.

It is imperative that we quit ignoring the pink elephant and fight for a more united, empowered and enlightened society regardless of AIDS.

Near the end of my 11 year marriage, and the loss of my best man, I committed my time and energy to making a lasting impact in this fight and sharing my life story through my words as well - as a feature length documentary, The Fire Within.

In 2005 I founded the nonprofit educational organization, HIVictorious, Inc. I am wholeheartedly committed to not sugar coating the harsh realities of this pandemic, speaking truth to power and kicking some serious HIV ass. (and having a good time doing it!) 

In doing so, I also honor the memories and courage of my dozens of friends from all walks of life who were taken from us far too early. It is to you my friends who have passed, and to the courageous souls surviving and thriving with this disease, that I will never ever surrender in this fight!

I bow to you, as well as my countless friends, and to my family for your unconditional love and support throughout these many years! It was surreal beyond all comprehension to have celebrated my 59th birthday this year!

Compassion is our cure!
Bob Bowers Tattoos HIV AIDS survivor.jpg


It's so wonderful to "meet" you! And I must say...your artwork is strikingly beautiful! I'm a huge admirer of body art...but have to be conservative, myself, due to my career.

I applaud your courage and your compassion. To get up in front of people and speak of your own journey with HIV/AIDS takes both! You obviously have a beautiful soul full of love and concern for the rest of us...because you care enough about us to put yourself under that microscope...


Thank you for trying so hard to keep us all safe.


Thank you for the beauty that is you.


Tattoos-word history:


Although the practice of tattooing the body is very old, the English word tattoo is relatively new. The explorer Captain James Cook (who also gave us the word taboo) introduced the word to English speakers in his account of a voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771. Like taboo, tattoo comes from Polynesian languages such as Tahitian and Samoan. The earliest use of the verb tattoo in English is found in an entry for 1769 in Cook's diary. Sailors introduced the custom into Europe from the Pacific societies in which it was practiced, and it has remained associated with sailors, although many landlubbers now get tattoos as well.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.“
—  Mark Twain

One Tough Pirate Bob Bowers Website
bob bowers tattoos phoenix back piece.jpg

You have, like the phoenix, risen from the ashes through your own determination and will.  Remember that what has risen from the ashes is not a toad or mole, or skunk or weak lil' worm but a beautiful strong soaring phoenix that has spread his wings over and around us. So soar on, my friend, and enjoy the the wind in your face and the warmth of your friends and the beauty of your accomplishments.

Hugs forever,

Bob Bowers' phoenix backpiece tattoo

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

~Mahatma Gandhi

Smooth fx
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Sauk City, WI 53583

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