“HIV is preventable and we need to make sure everybody understands it”

Alisha OstbergBlog, living with HIV, personal story, prevention

Greg Barry is one of the top fundraiser for the Scotiabank AIDS Walk. Although he has a busy life working as a senior manager in a multinational engineering company, Greg puts a lot of passion into this annual fundraiser. He does this because one of his three children, Ron, is HIV positive. Like his son, Greg also thinks it’s important to be involved in getting people educated about HIV.

“I do it this because of Ron. He contracted HIV in 2007. I got the call in February that year. He was in Italy studying and he called and he told us the news and he was quite devastated by it. We had just moved to Calgary,” shares Greg, adding that he thought his son is going to die after reading on the internet about the illness. “It was ten years ago and there was nothing on the Government of Canada’s website telling me anything good. Everything was bad. We were kind of concerned, scared. The first thing I did I booked him a flight and brought him home from Italy,” says Greg.

But then they started to read more and found out that people can live a long and have a good life. “We weren’t educated about HIV and AIDS, we are much more educated today. So it was tough for us for a couple of months,” says Greg. Back in Canada, Ron went to see doctors, and they all started to slowly feel normal again. “I wouldn’t want people to go through what we went through for the first few months. I think people need to understand that HIV is not a gay thing. I know that now, but I used to think that too. I won’t mind admitting I was ignorant to understanding it,” says Greg, who adds that people need to know HIV is preventable. “That’s the message that needs to get out and I know that is what HIV Community Link does. This is preventable and we need to make sure everybody understands it,” he insists.

When Ron, who is a consultant in capital project management, wanted to let others know about his HIV status, Greg didn’t understand why. But now he is proud of Ron’s decision. “I think it’s important for him to say ‘yes, I have HIV, but I live a normal, healthy life and I can be a productive member of society. He’s an example of that and I’m sure there are many others but he’s a person that I see every day.”

Greg has only one advice for those fundraising for the AIDS Walk: don’t be afraid to ask. “I’m not exclusive, I include everybody. I start with a list of emails, I say ‘I’m walking in the Walk to raise money for HIV Community Link, this is my goal this year’ and then I ask for their support. I sent that out this year in early August or late July. And then I sent them a reminder and I saw a spike in donations and I’ll probably send another email today on Friday. Email is pretty efficient today, it’s reaching the audience. Doesn’t matter who the person is, it might be a casual acquaintance, it might be a coworker I know very little of, it doesn’t matter to me, I will ask anybody.”

If you want to be part of this great event and get involved in fundraising, please sign up at scotiabankaidswalk.ca/Calgary. You can make a difference today in the life of someone living with, or at risk for HIV.