May 26, 2018
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Latino Commission on AIDS honors Pedro Zamora 15 years after his death




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Pedro Zamora Honored for His Selflessness and Courage – 15 Years Later, Still Encouraging Us to Know Our Status, Join the Fight


The Latino Commission on AIDS is bestowing to Pedro Zamora the “Voz de Compromiso (Commitment) Award" on May 12th at Cielo Latino 2009. Milly Zamora will receive the award on behalf of her brother. The award honors the selflessness and commitment of persons living with HIV/AIDS who through example have dedicated themselves to enlighten others about HIV/AIDS.


Many may recall meeting Pedro Zamora for the first time on MTV’s The Real World in 1994. For the first time ever, here was an openly gay Latino who also happened to disclose his HIV positive status to his roommates and then to his future partner in what was still a relatively new medium (reality TV).


For those too young to remember or those who did not watch music television back when it actually played music videos, Pedro was 22 years old when he joined the cast of the MTV show Real World San Francisco.


His appearance on the popular show has been credited with increasing AIDS awareness and normalizing the disease. “For many young Americans, watching Zamora on camera was our first exposure to a young person living with AIDS,” stated Oscar Lopez, Director of Health Policy at the Latino Commission on AIDS “and for many gay and bisexual Latinos he was also our first exposure to an out and proud person of color who did not apologize for who he was and what he was going through.”


Zamora came to the U.S. as a Cuban immigrant at the age of 8 and found out he was HIV-positive after giving blood during his junior year of high school. He turned to the Miami-based HIV/AIDS resource center Body Positive for help and support before speaking about his own experience living with the virus and then entered the national spotlight as an AIDS advocate after being featured on a front page article of the Wall Street Journal. Interviews by Geraldo Rivera, Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey followed.


On July 12, 1993, he testified before the United States Congress concerning HIV/AIDS awareness and educational programs. Zamora argued, "If you want to reach me as a young gay man - especially a young gay man of color, then you need to give me information in a language and vocabulary I can understand and relate to." For those in public health, Zamora's message still rings true today, as people of color and men who have sex with men continue to be disproportionately impacted by rising HIV infection rates.


When Pedro Zamora joined The Real World San Francisco he took his new role as an opportunity to raise awareness and educate millions of Americans on HIV/AIDS on a weekly basis while at the same time easing the anxieties of his Real World housemates. Zamora began dating partner Sean Sasser while on the show and they exchanged vows in the loft the show was filmed in. For many, this was also our first exposure to the possibilities of gay marriage. Before Rosie and Elton and Ellen – there was Pedro.  Pedro Zamora died at approximately 4:40am EST on November 11, 1994, the day after the final episode of The Real World San Francisco aired.


This week, MTV, mtvU, LOGO and MTV Tr3s, will present the world television premiere of Pedro, (with subtitles in Spanish) a movie based on the young man’s remarkable life on Wednesday, April 1 at 8:00pm ET/PT.  The Latino Commission on AIDS encourages anyone reading this to watch the biopic when it airs on Wednesday, April 1 or any of the other days when it is repeated and asks that you encourage others to do the same.


April is STD Awareness Month and this movie and its story are a great opportunity to share the story of Pedro’s life, struggles and celebrations. The timeliness of this movie is an opportunity to have an open dialogue among our family and friends and especially among our children and their friends about how much has changed and how much has not.


The link will take you to a page on the Latino Commission on AIDS website where you can download a viewing guide to accompany the film and includes questions you can ask your friends and family when you view Pedro.


The Latino Commission on AIDS encourages people to visit our office  or any of the other HIV/AIDS organizations across the state to pick up safer sex kits to distribute to those we love and if questioned, remember that condoms do not encourage sex. They encourage the practice of safer sex.


According to the most recent studies (CDC), Latinos were four times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS than Whites and four times more likely than Whites to die from HIV/AIDS. Latinos in the U.S. represent 15.3% (U.S. Census Bureau) of the population but account for 19% of the new AIDS cases.

As the number of people living with HIV continues to increase, reaching individuals at risk for HIV with culturally competent and linguistically appropriate prevention education, HIV testing and treatment is critical. Testing is the essential first step in linking people with HIV to medical care and ongoing support to help them establish and maintain safer behaviors. A substantial proportion of new infections in the U.S. are believed to be transmitted by those who are unaware of their HIV status, but studies also show that once people learn they are HIV positive, most take steps to protect their partners. Additionally, data suggests that many people with HIV are diagnosed late in the course of their infection, when it may be too late to fully benefit from life-extending treatments. 2007 CDC data shows Latinos progress to AIDS faster than any other ethnic group with 41% being diagnosed with AIDS within 12 months after learning of their positive HIV status compared to 34% late diagnosis among Whites and 35% among Blacks.    

The Latino Commission on AIDS encourages everyone to get tested for HIV. It is important to promote that HIV testing should become a routine part of health screening. You can obtain more information about HIV testing or find a testing location near you at: and in New York City you can obtain bilingual HIV testing information by calling the Commission at 212-584-9325 to set up an appointment. The New YorkState counseling hotline for the deaf and hearing impaired is (800) 369-2437 TDD.


Watch Pedro with someone you love and then join the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Latino Commission on AIDS and the community need you. 


The Latino Commission on AIDS is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990 dedicated to fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in Latino/Hispanic communities. The Commission is the leading national Latino AIDS organization and works in more than 40 States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

For more information visit





Thank you,

Oscar Raúl López
Director of Health Policy

Latino Commission on AIDS

Direct Line: (646) 375-4415


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