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Howard Stern personality helps to raise AIDS awareness

By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News

Gary Dell'Abate has joined forces with the organization LIFEbeat to help raise AIDS awareness.

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(CNN) -- Gary Dell'Abate is known to millions of Howard Stern fans as the good natured, Babba Booey.

When I spoke with Dell'Abate recently, he told me that behind his public persona lies personal tragedy. His brother, Steven, was HIV positive and died from AIDS in 1991.

Dell'Abate admits that until he heard about his brother's condition, he didn't know much about the disease. "You think that [you can get it] even [by] shaking somebody's hand," says Dell'Abate, "You think, 'Oh my god, you know, I could have it.' Of course you learn that isn't the case."

So Dell'Abate started seeking answers to save his brother.

"You just start making phone calls to everyone you know," he says, "trying to figure out if there's something out there that you haven't heard about, or that you don't know, or that you can somehow get your loved one into."

Eventually Dell'Abate came to a realization. "There just wasn't anything out there at the time that, that could have helped us," he says.

When Gary's brother became too ill for the family to care for him, he was moved to a hospital where they were faced with another unanticipated problem -- AIDS prejudice.


- 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Saturday - 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Sunday - 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
*all times Eastern

"There were nurses who not only refused to work with him, but were absolutely belligerent that he was there ... outraged that he was there."

Steven was later moved to a floor exclusively for AIDS patients, but this was small comfort for the family. "My mother was coming every day for long stretches," Dell'Abate says. "It was starting to take its toll on my family."

Steven died from AIDS-related complications in January 1991. Dell'Abate says he learned a hard lesson. "It's a very intolerant disease. People don't understand it."

Understanding and education is what prompted him to join forces with LIFEbeat -- The Music Industry Fights AIDS. The group raises AIDS awareness at concerts with artists like Ozzy Osbourne. And every night, at least one AIDS ward in New York enjoys performances of artists ranging from local cabaret acts to stars like Jewel and Branford Marsalis. The group also sponsors public service announcements on MTV to keep the message in front of another generation.

"What we preach is nothing new," says Dell'Abate. "But you can't stop preaching it."

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