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January 13th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Margaret Cho: HIV/AIDS still carries stigma

Katie McLaughlin
CNN

(CNN) - For Margaret Cho, HIV/AIDS isn’t something to think about once a year around the start of December – it’s a personal cause.

The comedian recently spoke with CNN about what inspired her to get involved with HIV/AIDS activism as "Anderson Cooper 360°" gears up to mark the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis with a special presentation, "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS." The hour-long special, which airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN, will also feature guests Sir Elton John, Sharon Stone, Mo'Nique and Cho, among others.

We caught up with Cho to talk about where the issue of HIV/AIDS stands today as well as if she’s spoken to one Bristol Palin lately.

CNN: Why is this issue so important to you, personally?

Cho: It's an issue that I, unfortunately, grew up around. HIV/AIDS was a really big problem right when I was a kid growing up in the ‘80s in San Francisco. There were so many people who were dying of AIDS and it was such a huge, huge, terrible issue in our community and then, of course, it was a global issue as well.

It made me realize that issues of health can be very political, and so that’s really where I began my political journey as a young AIDS activist trying to raise money and trying to find a way out of the problem.

CNN: What are some of the stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS that bother you the most?

Cho: I think that because the disease affected mostly gay people, there was a stigma attached that there was something wrong with people who had it – that the homophobia that surrounded the disease made people more hesitant to want to find a cure.

Or, that there was something wrong with having [HIV/AIDS], and that people who had it often were dying needlessly because they were either not aware of it, they didn't want to be aware of it, they didn't want to be associated with it and that’s why they didn’t seek treatment, or they weren’t getting help from their families because they somehow felt that they deserved the illness. There was so much made about the way that people contracted the disease and judgment being placed on that which was really terrible.

Full story on the Marquee blog

Editor's note:
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Katie McLaughlin
January 12th, 2011
03:00 PM ET

'Project Runway' star on life with HIV

As part of Anderson Cooper 360°'s special 'Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS' – which marks the 30th anniversary of the very first AIDS diagnosis - 'Project Runway' star Mondo Guerra will open up about living with HIV.

As part of Anderson Cooper 360°'s special 'Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS' – which marks the 30th anniversary of the very first AIDS diagnosis – 'Project Runway' star Mondo Guerra will open up about living with HIV.

Katie McLaughlin
CNN

(CNN) - As part of "Anderson Cooper 360°'s" special "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS" – which marks the 30th anniversary of the very first AIDS diagnosis – "Project Runway" star Mondo Guerra will open up about living with HIV.

Related: Hope survives, 30 years after first US AIDS diagnosis

Guerra will join guests including Sir Elton John, Sharon Stone, Mo'nique and many others for the hour-long program airing Friday, which will focus on stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS, how various methods of prevention may perhaps have ended the spread of the disease years ago and take a look at recent medical research and breakthroughs.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.

Guerra, who is HIV positive, spoke to CNN about the challenges he faces daily, his hopes for the future and, of course, fashion.

CNN: On your website, you wrote a message to your readers asking them to take time to remember the challenges of those living with HIV/AIDS. What are some of your own challenges?

Guerra: My biggest challenge is just [being] responsible and taking my meds every day.

That's the hardest thing to get into the routine of – reminding yourself religiously to take your meds. It's hard because it is just one [medication], but it's really easy to forget and once you kind of fall off the horse, it's rougher to get back on. If you miss a day or you miss two days, you take it again and then it's kind of almost like starting over again – there's going to be more side affects.

CNN: What are some of the stigmas about AIDS that bother you the most?

Guerra: A lot of people think that it’s still just a gay man's disease, which is quite bothersome. Yes, I am a gay man, but there are other people who have been infected and who are suffering from this and I think that ignorance alone lends itself to spreading the disease.

I also feel like people don't care to talk about it anymore because there has been some bit of progress in the research and I feel as if people maybe think it's been taken care of. Yes, there are meds that are keeping people alive for years upon years; but with all the side affects and opportunities for other infections – when you have an immune deficiency it can really hurt you.

Full story on the Marquee blog


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Katie McLaughlin