No stranger to HIV and hemophilia he has lived with his entire life, The Woodlands’ Barry Haarde is on a nationwide road trip to raise funds and awareness for both diseases.
Haarde is cycling 3,700 miles across the country this summer over 49 days to raise funds for Save One Life. The organization helps developing countries that struggle with hemophilia and do not have the medical advances to fight the disease, which prevents blood from clotting normally. So far, about $18,600 has been raised toward the $50,000 goal, according to the website.
“(The ride) is also geared toward doing what I can to eliminate stigma that comes along with HIV,” said Haarde, who contracted HIV at age 13. “Many people think that HIV is a horrible disease that people die from, but it can be reduced to nearly undetectable levels if treated.”
The 46-year-old HP employee has had hemophilia since birth. During the 1980s, Haarde was one of more than 10,000 hemophiliacs in America who contracted HIV and Hepatitis C as a result of blood transfusions. He is one of about 2,000 still remaining, and lost his brother John Haarde to Hepatitis C in 2007, and his brother-in-law Joseph Patrick Grant to AIDS in 1990.
Haarde recently defeated Hepatitis C after a four-year battle with the disease.
“Just the fact that I’m alive is a miracle,” he said.
Haarde will hold a “rolling memorial” on his 3,700-mile trek from Astoria, Ore. to Portsmouth, N.H., posting names every day on Facebook and honoring one person with each day’s ride who lost his or her life to AIDS or Hepatitis C as a result of hemophilia.
Despite having biked more than 13,000 miles over the last 16 months, Haarde has not always been athletically inclined. Not able to play sports much as a child because of hemophilia, Haarde began cycling in 1999 when a doctor suggested he cycle to rehabilitate his knee before surgery. His knee joint deteriorated after years of hemorrhaging, as the disease caused blood to leak into the joint.
The knee later was replaced with a prosthetic and he has not had problems with it since.
“Once I got a new knee, it gave me a new lease on life,” Haarde said. “I guess I got addicted to the competitive nature of (cycling).”
What started off as casual riding to get the knee in shape has become a passion for Haarde, who has competed in 10 MS 150 races and is riding about 200 miles a week in training for his upcoming feat, which begins June 18 and finishes Aug. 6.
While he jokes that he “stays away from contact football” or other sports that could damage his joints, he said hemophiliacs commonly cycle or swim to stay in shape. However, if he completes his 3,700-mile goal, he will be the first hemophiliac to cycle across the country.
Haarde said he’d be proud of the feat but admits that “in a way, I’ve faced harder things in my life.”