March 10, 2010
Something you may not know about me is that I am a reality show junkie. I watch all kinds of shows, from Survivor and Hell's Kitchen to Solitary. I find watching everyday people put into stressful situations makes for great television.
Pedro was also HIV positive and broke barriers against HIV/AIDS stigma by talking about it openly and honestly on national television. He put a face to the disease, which in return made it more relatable to those watching. If you didn't know someone who was gay or HIV positive, you did now.
Pedro allowed me to accept who I was as a gay male and move forward with it. By the time I graduated high school, I was ready to come out and admit I was gay. So I did. Seeing his relationship and then marriage to Sean Sasser let me see that one day I could find true love as a gay man. I applaud them both for leading the way and opening the eyes of people across the globe. They are both heroes in my book.
Robert and Jack Mackenroth.
I took Jack's appearance on Project Runway as a sign for me to continue in the way of activism. It was only a month later that I launched the POZIAM Network and came out as a person living with HIV/AIDS publicly. I remember when the season was over I decided to reach out to Jack through his website. I wanted to ask about placing a link to my network on his website. I thought it was a shot in the dark. I was surprised when Jack personally wrote me back and said yes he would add a link. I remember being so excited and jumping up and down with joy that I just got an email from Mr. Jack Mackenroth.
In February of 2009 I invited Jack to be a guest on POZIAM Radio. He accepted (you can listen to the interview). In April of 2009 Jack saw I was looking for a second co-host and asked if he could help. I of course said yes and the rest is history.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jack for the first time this past October. He was in Philadelphia speaking for the Philly AIDS Walk on behalf of his Living Positive by Design campaign. I am blessed today to call Jack a friend and fellow warrior in this fight.
Robert and Ongina.
I remember watching Ongina during the MAC Viva Glam challenge. Her slogan was "Life is a celebration". Then at the end of that episode when they announced Ongina won the challenge, she was overwhelmed with emotion. You see, the MAC Viva Glam campaign donates proceeds to help people living with HIV/AIDS. Unknowing to the viewing audience, Ongina then did something she have never imagined she would. Ongina then announced to the world she had been living with HIV for the past two years. This was unplanned and that was what made this so real to many who were watching.
I was so proud of Ongina for sharing her status, especially since her family was unaware of it. Ongina showed others that, as HIV-positive people, we can still live productive lives and accomplish our dreams. That day Ongina touched my heart and the heart of many others and has never stopped.
In April of 2009 after her departure from RuPaul's Drag Race, Ongina came on POZIAM Radio and shared her story.
In October of 2009 I was chosen to appear in one of Logo's "HIV+ME" episodes that featured Ongina. The "HIV+ME" episodes share personal stories of people living with HIV/AIDS. I was so honored to be chosen and was so excited to meet Ongina. That weekend in October I met both Ongina and Jack Mackenroth in person for the first time. It was a total dream come true!
After the filming and release of the "HIV+ME" episodes I invited Ongina back on my radio show to promote and discuss the project. Below is my "HIV+ME" Segment.
The point of this is blog post is to express how important it is for more HIV-positive people to be cast in reality shows. I myself have tried out a few times for a few different shows and got good reactions from producers, but never made the cut. HIV/AIDS is a reality and the individuals above are proof of that.
I have watched many movies with individuals who were HIV positive or were living with AIDS, but by the end of the movie the individual dies. People still have the movie Philadelphia in their heads when they think of people with HIV/AIDS. People are living longer with HIV/AIDS in 2010 and there needs to be a show or movie that will showcase that to the world. I am working on creating a show to do just that.
In hopes of inspiring,