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Garry Bowie, L.A. HIV Activist, Dies of COVID-19

Garry Bowie and Jeff Wacha

HIV activist Garry Bowie, executive director of Being Alive Los Angeles, died Tuesday morning of complications from COVID-19.

Bowie’s husband, Jeff Wacha, announced his death via Facebook. Bowie entered the hospital March 28, when he was having extreme difficulty breathing, after having exhibited flu-like symptoms for several days, Wacha wrote. He was diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs and acute respiratory disease syndrome, and was put on oxygen immediately and on a ventilator shortly afterward.

“I was able to talk to him for a couple of minutes at a time while he was in the ER, most of which was just reminding him how much I love him, and him telling me how much he loves me,” Wacha said in his post.

“We had one last set of ‘I love you’ before they sedated him so they could intubate and put him on a ventilator. This was about 2:00 PM on Saturday, March 28. I had no idea it would be the last time I spoke to my husband; my reason for living; the man who has supported me emotionally the previous 20 years and kept me alive; the man who made me laugh every day that we were together; the man who made each day together even more beautiful than the day before; the man who always knew what to do to help me see the light at the end of the tunnel when I started spiraling into the abyss; the man who surprised me with deliveries of flowers just because he ‘knew you needed it right now and to remind you how much I love you.’”

Being Alive offers a variety of services to people living with HIV, including psychotherapy, acupuncture, yoga, individualized emotional support, and education to help them take charge of their care. It also engages in political advocacy aimed at improving the situation of HIV-positive people. It has been in operation since 1986 and was continuing to serve clients during the current health crisis.

Bowie had amassed a large collection of documents relating to various organizations, Wacha noted. They will be donated to the ONE Archives and other groups, he said.

“Garry had a heart of gold, even though he didn’t always like you to know it and hid it as much as possible,” Wacha continued. “I try not to think that his love of his community and providing care for those in need and those less fortunate may have been the factor in his exposure to the COVID-19 virus. He was the most intelligent man I’ve ever known. His thirst for learning and research always astounded me. Talented beyond measure, no matter what tasks or projects he took on, which were way more than any human should attempt, they were always completed to the fullest of his ability and beyond everyone’s expectations. For him, his work was never just good enough; he strived to make it better in every way possible. Everything he touched appeared to be touched by magic.”

He concluded by telling friends, “Thank you for loving Garry and supporting him for so many years in every endeavor he took on.”

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