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Viva Mi Gente!: 12 Latino Celebrities and Characters Who Thrust HIV/AIDS Into Popular Culture

May 15, 2013


Pedro Zamora

Pedro Zamora

Undeniably the most influential person to come out of MTV's The Real World franchise, Pedro Zamora -- a gay, young Cuban-American man living with HIV -- was a member of the San Francisco-based cast of the fledgling series' third season. Unlike its current incarnation, The Real World at that time was actually about having people with different viewpoints come together and have discussions and arguments, not just make out in hot tubs after one too many martinis.

Zamora influenced an entire generation of gay people -- and HIV advocates of all genders -- by living as openly gay and openly HIV positive on national television. Many bloggers have recounted their experiences with the power of Zamora's visibility. He was an AIDS educator who chose to forgo a college education to inform the world about AIDS, and he accomplished just that. He lectured his cast-mates on HIV transmission and brought them to speaking gigs. Just prior to his death, Bill Clinton called Zamora to thank him for his service to Americans -- and Zamora gathered the strength to take the call, though he was on his deathbed. When MTV aired a biopic about Zamora in 2009, titled simply Pedro and written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk), Clinton introduced the film.

Zamora died in 1994 at age 22, the day after the season finale of The Real World: San Francisco aired, but his legacy is enduring and tangible.

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