Richard "Dab" Garner

Richard “Dab” Garner, born March 28 1962, is an AIDS activist and has been since he was diagnosed in 1981. He has been considered full blown AIDS since 1994, having had Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma twice, heart attack, wasting syndrome, and stroke from both the HIV and the side effects of the medications. He was born and raised in Pensacola Florida, the youngest of 3 boys. He received his BA degree in Business Administration at USC and an MBA at UCLA.

At 16 he became sexually active and at 19 contracted HIV and became ill. He was thrown into a room and told he had 6 months to live and to get his affair in order since he likely wouldn’t live to be 20. This is how his parents learned of his sexual orientation. At this point his first partner, who was his photographer while Dab was a fashion model, had already died. Two more partners would also die of AIDS but it was his second, Brad, the police officer who Dab considers his soul mate. During that period, while with Brad, Dab was losing many friends to AIDS and since his high school nickname was Teddy bear which stuck with him, Dab would go visiting his friends in the hospital giving them each a teddy bear. Also at this time, He and Brad adopted an infant girl named Candace who was born with Alcohol Fetal Syndrome and HIV and whose mom died ten days after she was born. No one wanted her since her prognosis was only six months so Brad and Dab took her from infancy till her death at 4 ½ years old. Candace couldn’t pronounce the word DAD and it came out as DAB and lovingly the name remained. Many lesbian friends and those in the leather community helped Brad and Dab through this time with Candace. With the many visits to the clinic for Candace, Dab and Brad met many other babies with HIV. Toward the end, Candace understood the love she was given and saw other kids in the clinics she played with who had no one and expressed in her way a wish for others to have the love she did. After she died, Dab had to get Vicki, the on duty nurse to go sneak into her room to get the teddy bear she was given since at that time all belongings of those with AIDS were burned. Three months later, Brad died of AIDS.
Dab remains with the original Teddy Bear and the only photo of his beloved Brad; the one he had at work. His entire material world was destroyed in the 1989 North Ridge Earthquake.

Since its beginnings in San Francisco and Los Angeles, The AIDS bear project is presently in 21 US cities and 11 foreign countries.
In 2010, over 60,000 children have been given teddy bears over the holidays. In 21 years, over 700,000 Teddy bears have been given with over a half million pictures of people holding the bears. In addition, Dab has recruited thousands of Ambassadors of Hope who are given an AIDS bear by Dab to go out into their communities and wherever they travel, to spread the message of hope, prevention and support for the thousands of men women and children, both gay and straight who are dealing with HIV disease.

Dab presently resides in Wilton Manors Florida with his present partner George. He continues to tirelessly fight not only for those suffering with AIDS, but for prevention, education, funding for more effective medications with less severe side effects and financial support for those who have been affected by this still devastating disease.