Former cast member of MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco Judd Winick encouraged students to spread awareness about AIDS at Kogan Plaza Friday.
The visit, presented by GW Pride and the Youth Pride Alliance, is part of a national tour of college campuses to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and Winick’s new book, Pedro and Me. Various AIDS-related groups, including Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, the Latin American Youth Center, Metro Teen AIDS and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, also participated in the event.
Winick said he had many misconceptions about AIDS when he started the MTV show; but said living with Pedro Zamora, a fellow cast member who battled AIDS throughout the taping of the show, opened his eyes.
(Before the show), all I knew about AIDS was from the media, he said. The end-stage patients that looked like they stepped out of Auschwitz. That’s who I was going to be living with.
Winick said Zamora, who shared a room with him on the show, was terrified at first because he did not know how the other cast members were going to react to him being gay and HIV positive.
There wasn’t anything to be frightened about, Winick said. I wasn’t living with AIDS, I was living with Pedro.
Pedro Zamora died in 1994 shortly after the end of taping of the Real World.
Students said Winick touched home when he spoke about his experience with Zamora.
I started crying when he was talking about Pedro, sophomore Susan Sims said.
It was really emotional and heartfelt, said freshman Faisal Hasal. It got to me.
Winick, 30, advocated activism among young adults.
Our culture barely recognizes young people, he said. You have to do it yourself and teach each other.
The best way to carry on Pedro’s legacy is to live, Winick said.
Winick closed his address with the same words that Zamora would close his speeches when he was an AIDS educator: Be safe and love each other.
Winick said the response to his AIDS education tours he started when Zamora died and his book have been phenomenal.
I think its because Pedro is forever 22 years old, like people here, he said.
Romaine Patterson, a member of GLAAD who publicly protested rapper Eminem’s controversial anti-homosexual lyrics on MTV, said that she was touched by Winick’s book.
Starting today, I have rededicated myself to the fight (against AIDS), she said. Patterson has not spoken about AIDS since her brother died of AIDS complications years ago. When my brother died, I said I’d never do this again.
Before he began working on Pedro and Me, Winick said he was disillusioned by the work he was doing after he achieved his life-long dream of drawing a nationally-syndicated comic strip, Frumpy the Clown.
It all seemed so unimportant, he said.
After the comic was printed for a year and a half, he stopped working on it and began writing the book. Winick’s fianc?e, former Real World: San Francisco cast member Pam Ling, is working on an AIDS research fellowship, studying ways to reach out to young adults about AIDS awareness.
It’s important that we continue to teach about AIDS, said Brent Stansell, GW Pride administrative chair. Our generation doesn’t understand the pain of watching people die of AIDS.