August 8, 2013

Honor Spotlight

Pedro Zamora
Cuban-American AIDS educator
Born: February 29, 1972, Diezmero, Cuba
Died: November 11, 1994, Coconut Grove, Miami, FL

Pedro Zamora (February 29, 1972 – November 11, 1994) was a young openly-gay HIV-positive AIDS educator when he was cast as a housemates on the groundbreaking MTV reality show Real World San Francisco. For many young Americans, watching Zamora on camera was their first exposure to a young person living with AIDS. His appearance on the popular show has been credited with increasing AIDS awareness and normalizing those with the disease.

About Pedro Zamora:

Pedro Zamora was born in Havan, Cuba on the leap day of a leap year (February 29, 1972). According to a Wikipedia report, a Santeria priestess deemed Zamora a grande cabeza or "wise one" born to save lives. Zamora came to the U.S. as a Cuban immigrant at the age of 8.

Pedro Zamora and HIV:

Zamora 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. Zamora entered the national spotlight as an AIDS advocate after being featured by Eric Morganthaler 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." Much of Zamora's message still rings true today as gay people of color continue to suffer from rising HIV rates.

More on Pedro Zamora and The Real World:

Pedro Zamora was chosen as a castmember of the MTV reality show, The Real World San Francisco in 1994. He took his new role as an opportunity to teach HIV/AIDS awareness. Zamora educated all of America at the same time he eased the anxieties of his Real World housemates. Zamora began dating partner Sean Sasser while on the show. They exchanged vows in the Real World loft. The show aired a week after the cast moved out of the loft.

Pedro's Last Days:

Pedro's health began to deteriorate during the taping of the show. However, things only got worse after they moved he moved out. Zamora’s T-cell count had dropped to an alarming 32 and he suffered from PML and other serious illnesses. 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.

Pedro Zamora's Legacy:

Zamora was honored by former President Bill Clinton for his HIV/AIDS awareness work. SW 59th Street in Miami, Florida was given the name "Pedro Zamora Way."


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