I have never spoken about my friendship with Pedro Zamora until now.
I met Pedro at a treatment activist conference a few years before he became a public person. He was a member of ACT UP Miami, and I was a member of ACT UP New York.
We became very close and dated for a while. In 1990, '91 or '92, Body Positive in New York City had a fundraiser and was honoring activists living with HIV and educators for their work in the community. Pedro and I were honored. I was the editor of SIDA Ahora (the first AIDS magazine in Spanish, by the People With AIDS Coalition [PWAC] in NYC) and Pedro was doing a lot of AIDS education in schools all over the country.
At the time, I did not know Paul Kawata. But a day or two before the fundraiser, he called me to get some "dirt" on Pedro. Somebody told him we were dating and, as the person presenting Pedro with the award, he was looking for something funny to say.
Our long-distance relationship didn't work, but we remained very close friends. He always looked for my support and would ask me for advice on his health, life and work. By then I was living in D.C. and working at NMAC for Paul. Pedro was becoming a giant, and one day he called, letting me know he was going to be in D.C. and he needed to talk to me about something big that was going to happen to him -- life-changing kind of stuff.
We met at Union Station for lunch. He looked exhausted and sad. He was burned out and not feeling well. He had just been cast for the San Francisco MTV Real World and had been offered a part in the show.
He was debating about the opportunity. He was tired, but he also knew that the opportunity would allow him to realize his dream and goal to educate mainstream America about HIV/AIDS. He asked me what to do.
He told me that intellectually he knew he needed a break, but his heart was telling him that being in the show was going to be his legacy. My first response was for him to rest, to take a break -- but also I understood what it meant to be a young person with HIV and wanting to leave a legacy, to be remembered.
I was worried about his health, but I could not talk him out of pursuing his dream. I warned him about his health and told him to follow his heart. This was 1993, before the new medications. He followed his heart and he realized his dream.
In 1994, he got sick in New York City while filming Real World. I got a call from his family that he needed to go to a hospital. I was in NYC and contacted another giant: Dr. Gabriel Torres, director of the Saint Vincent Hospital AIDS clinic. They made the arrangements to receive Pedro.
Once all was ready and Pedro was assigned a room, I went to see him and his sister to make sure that they had what they needed. Pedro was surrounded by many of his Real World friends. I touched base with his sister and stayed back, looking for his eyes. We found each other's eyes; he smiled and was going to get up to reach out, but did not have the energy to get through the people around his bed.
He opened his almond eyes big, smiled and waved at me. I smiled and waved back, knowing that this would be our last time connected in this life. He always was and always is in my heart.
Moisés Agosto-Rosario is a longtime treatment advocate and educator for people living with HIV. Mr. Agosto-Rosario has played a crucial role in ensuring that communities of color have equal access to care, treatment and lifesaving information and has won numerous awards for his work with the HIV community. He is currently the director of treatment for NMAC, formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council.
This article has been adapted with permission from his Facebook page.