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Whatever Happened to the HIV-Positive Man Who Sued Cirque du Soleil and Won?

September 29, 2011

In 2004, The Washington Post wrote an article about Matthew Cusick, an HIV-positive gay man who sued Cirque du Soleil for employment discrimination. In 2002, Cirque hired Cusick to catch the acrobats from the flying trapeze in "Mystère," a show at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

As part of the training for this job, Cusick had to receive a physical examination, during which he disclosed that he is HIV positive. Since the doctors were so "unalarmed" about his status, he believed that his employers would view this as a nonissue. He soon realized that was not the case. One week later, he was fired after being told that he was a risk to other performers.

He told the Post, "The way they treated me, it was like I was a piece of trash."

But with the help of Lambda Legal, Cusick sued Cirque du Soleil and settled for $600,000.

Now, almost seven years later, the newspaper revisits Cusick to see how life has been since he was unjustly fired. He seems to be doing pretty well for himself:

He lives in Manhattan -- he has moved from [NYC's] Hell's Kitchen to Harlem -- and his days are jam-packed. ("I've made a new clock that has 28 hours in the day," he jokes.) He's a personal trainer with a handful of clients, and the rest of his time is divided between the Metropolitan Opera and his company KENiMATTix. Cusick has been a frequent performer at the Met since late 2004, tumbling and dancing in the likes of "Macbeth" and "La Bohème." It was there that he met fellow stunt artist Ken Berkeley, and in early 2005, the pair developed KENiMATTix -- and perform choreography in which the pair create amazing positions with their bodies, relying on strength and hand-balancing. He estimates that he and Berkeley perform 12 shows a week for both public events and private parties.

As far as his health goes, Cusick says everything is status quo. He has taken Atripla -- a pill that combines three HIV treatments in one -- since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006. "I'm doing fine; I've really had no problems. Just still maintaining a healthy lifestyle."

So what's next? For a man who makes his living by doing dazzling and complicated stunts, the answer is pretty cut and dried: "to live a happy life."

Are you out with your status at work? Have you ever experienced any workplace stigma or discrimination? Tell us about it.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.


Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.



This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS-Related Discrimination Cases

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Rhiannon (Louisville,KY) Mon., Oct. 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm EDT
This is great... he should of received more but at least he won his fight with discrimination.I myself was forced out to quit do to having AIDS. to long of a story to print here.. but yes I was forced. I even had lawyers on it and was about to proceed with a suit myself, however due to my health I couldn't stay. My Lawyers begged me to stay as they new they had a case and would of been the first here in Ky, but being sick I couldn't work in the environment they provided yet I could of worked at home but they wouldn't let me, they was just hateful about all of it.
Oh well.. such is life I guess.
Thanks - Rain
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Comment by: Greg (Melbourne Australia) Fri., Oct. 7, 2011 at 12:00 am EDT
I used to work with in the Australian Taxation office, until one day this employee, Kate Forster, walked up to me and said " I am going to spread that you have AIDS" I asked her not too, when i reported this to Human Resources, i was told after consultation that nothing could be done, and was fired 2 days later. The manager just smiled, and said under her breath, get this retard out of my office.
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