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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Pedro Pablo Zamora, (1972 - 1994) Cuban-American. AIDS educator, TV personality.

b. February 29, 1972
d. November 11, 1994

As one of the first openly gay with AIDS to be portrayed in popular media,Zamora brought international attention to HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues and prejudices through his appearance on MTV's reality television series, The Real World: San Francisco.

Born as the seventh child of an impoverished Cuban family, his childhood was difficult. The family was divided when he was just eight years old. They were permitted to leave Cuba for Florida - without the four oldest siblings, who were compelled to stay behind. Pedro became very close to his mother, but she died when he was was thirteen. Suppressing his grief, he went into denial by throwing himself into his schoolwork, and by having promiscuous sex. He was ignorant of safe sex,which was not surprising for this early stage of the pandemic, and his circumstances.

In his junior year of high school, Zamora donated blood during a Red Cross blood drive,which led to confirmation in November that he had HIV. After graduating from high school in 1990, he joined a Miami-based HIV/AIDS resource center called Body Positive. Soon thereafter, he came to talk about his condition to others to attempt to raise awareness about the disease in his community. This led to a career as an AIDS educator, and national media attention when Eric Morganthaler wrote a front page article about him for the Wall Street Journal, resulting in talk show interviews by Geraldo Rivera, Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey.

In 1993, he successfully auditioned for a place on the MTV show, "The Real World". For four months of 1994, he lived in the Real World San Francisco loft with castmates who knew of his HIV status, which he openly discussed with them. Some even accompanied him on outings to his AIDS education lectures in the Bay Area.

During his stay in the loft, his health visibly deteriorated, and continued to do so after the end of filming in June 1994, until he died in November the same year. 

After his death, Zamora was publicly praised by President Bill Clinton and Donna Shalala for his leadership and work in educating high school students, saying that through his appearances on The Real World, Pedro had become a part of viewers’ families, and that all people who watched the show could now say that they “knew” someone who had lived with AIDS. MTV broadcast A Tribute to Pedro Zamora, a special memorial program, in his honor.

A street in Miami (SW 59th Street) was given the name "Pedro Zamora Way".

Zamora's family at the dedication of "Pedro Zamora Way

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