In honor of World AIDS Day, we spoke to Project Runway star Mondo Guerra—who revealed his HIV positive status on the show—about his work with HIV/AIDS and why it's important to keep talking about the epidemic.
What does World AIDS Day mean to you?
It's a reminder for me personally that I’m still living with HIV. But I think on a larger scale, it reminds everybody that we’re still fighting this disease and there isn’t a cure. It's a message that needs to be addressed again. I feel that we’ve forgotten about this epidemic. Nobody talks about it anymore, because people aren’t dying from it all the time. It's really important to open up a conversation about it again.
You're one of the few celebs talking about HIV/AIDS in the media. Are you looking to make this issue your platform?
I would like to consider it a platform. Listen, when I was infected, I thought it was the end of the world for me. Now that I have an opportunity to speak out on it and educate and remind people where we’re at with this disease, I’m going to definitely take it to the next level. I hope that I can continue to speak out on it and encourage people to start talking about it.
HIV/AIDS used to be viewed as a death sentence, but that's not true anymore. Is it?
Yeah, exactly, it's not a death sentence. But that being said, I feel like people have stopped talking about it and there’s not enough attention being brought to the issue. It's really important for us to keep moving forward and finding a cure.
Tell us about your partnership with Piperlime in honor of World AIDS Day?
Piperlime is an online store for mostly women's apparel and shoes. They approached me and they wanted to do a partnership with me to design a couple of T-shirts. With my story being unveiled on the show and the response I got from my fans, I felt it was important to not only do this project with Piperlime, but if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it for a cause. Fashion can definitely service a purpose other than just getting dressed in the morning. I told them, ‘World AIDS Day is coming up, so why don't we do something where we donate the money for AIDS Research?' The T-shirts I designed come out on today, December 1st on piperlime.com. They're $50 each, and 20 dollars from each sale goes to amfAR AIDS Research.
What influenced the designs on the t-shirts?
One of the t-shirts has a design of The Day of the Dead and it's from my final collection on Project Runway. In Mexican culture the day of the dead is not about dying—it's about remembrance and about loving the ones that have passed and living your life in their memory. The other t-shirt is just a tree that has no leaf on it, but has a single hanging heart and in Spanish it says 'Live and Love.' The inspiration for that came from what I learned on the show. That you can love other people and you can allow other people to love you back, but you have to start by loving yourself first.
We hear you're going to Washington D.C. on behalf of the UN for World AIDS Day.
I will be there [today] on World AIDS Day to speak at the UN. I have to tell you that I am SUPER nervous! I'm just going to get up there and tell them my life story. I want to talk about when I came out, and why I didn't reveal my HIV status for such a long time. I don't think people understand that there is still such a stigma behind being HIV positive. I'm going to tell them what I have had to go through to get the attention that I felt I deserved in Colorado. I was working in a theater and I didn't have insurance, so I had to do the government funded programs [for treatment]. Through the government funded programs, there was just so much that I had to prove and it felt like I had to jump through so many hoops to the point where I actually got sick and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. It wasn't until then that people were like, 'Oh my gosh, this person is on their death bed, maybe we should pay attention a little bit more to what he's asking.' I just think that this has to be addressed. This is a true story.
What message do you have for those who are newly diagnosed with HIV?
That this isn’t the end. They should continue to live their day 100 percent, and continue to love yourself and allow people to care for you. And let them support you no matter what. Don’t feel ashamed and just move forward.