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Advocate Profile: Derek Canas

[Image of Derek and Santa and he's holding the D-REK's Angels and Warriors support dawgs from last year's End The Stigma toy drive]

What is your favorite memory/ moment that brought you lots of joy? When I became a uncle. I'm very thankful my sister had kids and they keep me motivated to take care of my health.

What is something people generally don’t know about you? I read a lot. Science/medical journals books everything. I like learning new things.

Who is Derek? D-REK it's my DJ stage name and a joke because health wise I'm a mess.

What gets your fired up about the disability movement? The fact that Heterosexual white males are still overlooked in HIV/AIDS advocacy.

What is your advocacy platform? My website it has all my info and current news on the disease. It's a great resource for information. I'm also reachable through messaging there or using the social media links.

What barriers or challenges do you face in this movement? Just being taken seriously. I'm a 35 year long term survivor of AIDS but I'm also 35 so my health issues although similar are often downplayed. The virus actually stopped me from growing I'm 5 foot tall and 100 pounds. I'm constantly told my story is not relatable.

What do you want those who do not identify with disability to know? I'm no different than you. I play video games. I like Netflix. I just come with a pacemaker and medicine bottles. My health issues are a major part of my life but I do a good job blending in with everyone.

What areas are you still growing/hope to grow? Personally? Professionally? Personally I hope to be a better kinder person. Professionally I'm trying to get into national health conferences and be the voice for those that don't have one. I'm going to start busting down doors.

Who was the person/role model who inspired you to look into disability advocacy? Why/how did they inspire you? Magic Johnson, He was the first person I ever saw speak about the virus on a nick news episode. This was years before I would be diagnosed. Something compelled me to sit and watch and listen to it.

When people look at you/up to you, what do you hope they see? I hope they see a fighter. I claw my way through everyday. My pain levels are off the chart, that happens when you go through open heart surgery as a 3 month old. Pain becomes a commonality. You learn to adjust and keep moving forward.

What are your next steps? I'm hoping to plan a 4th #EndTheStigma toy drive. It's difficult this year due to Covid-19. I usually have a big event with Santa and the Grinch and we get a few classic cars to pack full of toys. Then a police escort to keep an eye on the Grinch. We then go drop the toys at the hospital and greet patients. It's been a great event. Three years and we've had over 800 toys donated and $10,000 dollars

How do we follow you?! My website it has all social media links at the top of the page

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