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Daniel Poitras’s friends adore him – so much so that they signed a petition to get him on the cover of Xtra.

Take Rick Rocheleau. He came home from rollerblading to discover a package on his door – a form letter, accompanied by an already stamped and addressed envelope. All Rick had to do was sign it and pop over to the mailbox. And he did – immediately.

He has no idea where the petition came from.

Rick and Daniel have been friends for 13 years. “He’s a good role model,” says Rick. “He does a lot in the community, and I find a lot of people don’t get the recognition they deserve. People have good hearts, and want to help out.”

There’s too much nastiness in the world, Rick adds. People like drag queen Chris Edwards and musician Carrie Chesnutt “should be immortalized in some way, these people do so much.”

Daniel’s collection of achievements is impressive. He’s got a five-page list of awards and volunteer work, and letters of thanks from a who’s who of the gay community.

There’s even a file on him at the Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives.

And Xtra has a huge pile of letters, dropped off, mailed and faxed, from people who care about Daniel and about his work, who want him recognized.

At 2pm on Fri, Aug 18, Daniel begins his fifth annual 48-hour sitathon to raise money for AIDS charities. He’ll be sitting on Church, just south of Maitland, and he wants your canned fish, peanut butter, power bars and vitamins. Cash and Canadian Tire money will do nicely, too.

The sitathon has raised almost $14,000 in cash in the last few years – for such groups as the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation and Fife House.

Yet with all this time and effort, Daniel’s HIV-negative.

“I’ve seen a lot of people die,” he says simply.

He’s floored that after all the community has been through, the HIV infection rate has doubled in Toronto. And he’s trying to figure out why. “You get tired,” he says. “It’s the fatigue, we’ve been dealing with this since, what, 1982.

“I’m exhausted. I’m tired of opening up Xtra and two more people have died.

“You watch them degenerate, fall apart, die. You become tired. We’ve become so bombarded with it….”

Daniel says he’s used condoms every time he’s had anal sex. He also adds that that’s not too often. “There’s a terrible assumption made that all gay men have anal sex. Not all of us are into that.”

He’s heard people talk about being HIV-positive, not telling a sex partner and not using rubbers. So when he does have anal sex (including, occasionally, at bathhouses), the rule is “no glove no love.”

He knows not everyone will insist. “That’s your choice – truly your choice. You’re playing Russian roulette. It’s just a matter of time.”

He’s had two accidents, and got tested six months later.

For Daniel, oral sex is in the raw. “You swallow and the stomach acids kill it.” (But don’t brush your teeth before oral sex – that can cause cuts in the mouth, where HIV can sneak into the bloodstream.)

New drugs are keeping PWAs alive longer – but there is no cure, and they’re still coming down with brutish diseases.

Thrush and throat cancer mean they can’t even eat. “Just swallowing water is difficult. It’s very disturbing.

“They’re hungry, and they can’t get the food down.”

Cans of Boost or Ensure – nutritional supplements – are the perfect gift.

Daniel wants to do something extra this year, and bring attention to the fact the such nutritional supplements are not automatically covered anymore for those on disability. So he’ll be fasting these 48 hours.

He’s still a bit surprised by the campaign to get him on Xtra’s cover. “Oh you brats, what did you do now?” he says fondly of his friends.

We didn’t feature Daniel in life size on the cover this issue. We talked about it, and decided to go with another worthy event – Series 2000, the gay world softball championships hosted this month by the Cabbagetown Group Softball League. (Proceeds from Series 2000 will also go to charity.)

It wasn’t an easy decision. And it doesn’t make Daniel Poitras – and the other hardworking people of this community – any less important. As Daniel’s friends will have no trouble telling us!

Eleanor Brown is Managing Editor for Xtra.