Pedro’s story still relevant today

April 1, 2009

clinton5- Bill Clinton is founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the 42nd President of the United States. The opinions expressed are his own -

Fifteen years ago, when Pedro Zamora appeared on MTV’s The Real World, he changed the face of HIV/AIDS in America.

For the first time, viewers saw an openly gay, HIV-positive young person on national television. As we followed his story each week, Pedro humanized the growing epidemic, reducing our ignorance and fears and increasing our determination to act. By living bravely and allowing MTV to show his story, Pedro set an extraordinary example of what a tremendous impact a single person can make in our world.

Pedro’s story and his message remain powerful and relevant. Today, more than 1 million Americans are living with HIV, and 20 percent of them don’t know they are infected. Infection rates are increasing among certain groups, including women of color. The HIV infection rate in Washington, D.C. – at 3 percent – is comparable to some African countries where AIDS is the number one cause of death.

It’s critical for our nation to intensify the fight against HIV/AIDS here at home, starting with testing. Lack of information, misconceptions, and social stigma keep too many people from getting tested. Others mistakenly believe they have been tested as part of routine health care visits. Rapid result tests, including basic oral swabs, make it easy for anyone, anywhere in the country to be tested for HIV. Non-invasive testing is also available for other, more prevalent STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea.

Today marks the start of National STD Awareness Month. Several organizations on the frontlines of the HIV/AIDS and broader STD efforts are beginning a concentrated push to get as many people tested as possible this April. This is an opportunity especially for younger people who have never lived in a world without the threat of HIV/AIDS to confront these challenges head on. I urge all Americans, particularly those under age 25 who are sexually active, to get tested for STDs and make responsible decisions about their sexual health. Our actions now will shape the future of the AIDS epidemic and our country’s health.

Abroad, we’re fighting a different challenge: worldwide, there are 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Millions now have access to treatment, thanks to The Global Fund, the U.S. PEPFAR program, the Gates Foundation, UNITAID, and many others, including my foundation’s HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI). More than 1.4 million people are now accessing more affordable, lifesaving antiretroviral treatment under CHAI’s pricing agreements. But severe challenges remain in expanding access to everyone who needs it, in stopping mother-to-child transmission, and in preventing new infections.

This requires thinking big – building health systems that bring services to rural communities and increasing the number of frontline health care workers who can educate people on prevention, test those who need it, and supplying medicines for treatment. Without these basic, high-impact health services, too many people are dying and more are being infected than we can treat.

In the early 1980s, very little was known about the HIV/AIDS virus or its origin. We’ve made great progress on treatment and prevention, and in raising the awareness and developing political will necessary to address the crisis. But we still have a long way to go. We must continue toact on Pedro’s message of prevention, understanding, and compassion, both nationally and globally.

That requires an open dialogue on sexual health issues, a dramatic increase in prevention practices, a willingness to be tested, and an all-out effort to bring prevention and treatment to the far corners of our Earth. We must remember what Pedro taught us: one person can change the world – and whether or not we are living with HIV or know someone who is, we all have a responsibility as global citizens to do whatever we can. Life is short enough as it is. No one should die from a disease that is both preventable and treatable.

Bill Clinton will introduce the feature film “Pedro” when it premieres on April 1.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Did anybody notice that spread of HIV and social acceptance of homosexuality are going hand in hand? It was for a reason that Sodomy was unequivocally called in the Scriptures abomination, and not once (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13). So far gay men are making up the most of both new infections and overall AIDS cases. The social groups with the most female infections are coincidentally the ones where either IV drug use is the most spread, or the youth are culturally encouraged to promiscuity and sexual experimentation, including homosexual contacts.And, again coincidentally, the groups where HIV is most spread are among the most vocal and politically activist ones. Even though AIDS is the main death cause among gay men, it’s minuscule in overall population comparing to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and quite some more ailments. Yet AIDS gets disproportional share of attention and financing.Surely preaching abstinence as the main prevention measure is ineffective to the degree of laughable. Yet promotion of Sodomy as another normalcy, as “alternative lifestyle” only makes things worse. No, I’m not for persecution or gay bashing – after all it’s no one’s business what consenting adults do in private. However it’s not normal. It’s simply sick. People affected by it should be pitied, not glorified. Sex education should not concentrate on the techniques of perverse sex. Instead the youths must be presented with all dangers of this “alternative lifestyle”, both moral and medical, manifold higher risk of HIV contraction being the first of them. They must be shown in all graphical reality the effects of AIDS, explained how ugly, prolonged, and painful a death awaits everyone infected. If all these efforts make just one young person refrain from homosexual experimentation, they would not be wasted.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

“Today, more than 1 million Americans are living with HIV, and 20 percent of them don’t know they are infected”If they don’t know they are infected, how can they be included in this statistic? I’m no genius, but this doesn’t make sense to me.

Posted by rowdygirl | Report as abusive

To the Anonymous coward from a few posts before, please spare us all your “holier than thou” lifestyle blather and go hate somewhere else, maybe the fox or sky news comment boards where that stuff is celebrated.Oh and I’m straight as an arrow, I just don’t look down on people for being who and what they are.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

To Michael Ham:1. You resorted to name calling, ergo you have no valid argument against my point of view. Which only proves it right.2. The last time I checked 1st Amendment was still on the books. It none of your (or other self-appointed censors’) business to decide who can post what and where. If you still prefer censorship, please get yourself one way ticket to someplace like North Korea.3. Does “I just don’t look down on people for being who and what they are” also include persons who dare to express a point of view different from yours?

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Anonymous, I, like you am posting my opinion of you, if you don’t like it than you can get a one way ticket to North Korea.You’re a christian, so that I’m sure makes you pro-life, how many babies are aborted by gay couples? You’re talking about the danger of death from choosing to be homosexual. About 1.5 million abortions are performed per year in this country, which I’ll bet you view as a death of a baby. Since the detection of AIDS as a disease about 300,000 total homosexuals have died from this, total.So you’re saying we should have tax money allocated to preaching about the deadliness of a lifestyle that’s resulted in 300,000 deaths and promote a lifestlye that’s ended in 50 million abortions?I don’t want the money I have taxed out of me to be used to tell certain people they have something wrong with them because of the harmless lifestyle they choose.Gosh people are so backwards, the cowboys with the farthest fall are the ones who ride the highest horses.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Michael Ham,I have no objection to you exercising your 1st Amendment rights. However your way of doing so – with name calling, assumptions about your opponent (by the way your assumptions are wrong from the beginning to the end), and general arrogance and offensive way – that’s what seems to me objectionable. IMHO you really need to learn manners and adopt more civilized approach to discussion.“You’re a christian” – nope, I’m Jewish, and only mildly religious at that. And, unlike some hardline Jews, I don’t cringe when somebody displays a cross or any other Christianity symbol. I see nothing wrong in somebody being Christian. Do you?Besides, there’s nothing wrong referring to the Scriptures in discussing moral issues. After all, this country was and hopefully still is based on Judeo-Christian moral values. If you want to throw these values out of the window, should we also do away with Thou shalt not kill, …steal, … and such?“…makes you pro-life,…I’ll bet you view [abortion] as a death of a baby…” – nope, I believe this issue must be between the woman, her doctor, and God – if any of the former 2 believes in any, and no one else. But I also believe that both sides are wrong rising this pro-life/choice thing as the main issue of any elections. We have too many more pressing issues – terror threat, the economy in shambles, runaway budget deficit, to name just a few, to spend time and resources on this issue.“I don’t want the money I have taxed out of me to be used to “impose perverts as role models on impressionable youths in the name of Political Correctness. To tolerate is one thing, to aggressively promote is quite another.I also don’t want my taxes to be spent on a disease with so little relevance to general population. The risk of AIDS is associated with certain behavioral traits – IV drug abuse, homosexual contacts, and general promiscuity. These choices are voluntary. It would be a lot more productive to confront risky behavior instead of consequences thereof, and spend the resources instead on some more widely relevant medical problems, such as cancer or stem cell research.And finally – I’m raising kids. Now they’re too small to understand any of these issues. But eventually they’ll grow into teens, and I don’t want them to be fed any propaganda, right wing or left wing. I don’t want any role models to be forced on them, especially the ones I see as perverts.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Anonymous,Sorry maybe I was a little vicious but as an agnostic I really take offense to people trying to tell me that the Christian God’s lifestyle is better than anyone else’s. This country wasn’t formed on Christian morals, it was formed on limited government and freedom of choice. So, again I don’t want government telling me how everyone should live life as a nice wholesome Christian/Jew.You say on one hand that being gay is dangerous and every child in America should be taught so and then on the other hand you say being gay and having AIDS is such a minor thing no tax money should be allocated, which is it?You think it’s sick to be gay, I think it’s sick to judge others for doing something that doesn’t even have a tiny minor effect on your life. Beating your wife is sick, abusing your kids is sick, killing others is sick, I guess we just have a different level of morals and standards.No government, especially this trash US gov’t, should try to impose their brand of morals on anyone. The average american family has a hell of a lot better idea of morals than those slimeball bureaucrats in Washington. That’s why people have parents.So you can continue hating gays and telling everyone how you’re lifestyle choice is more wholesome, but it’s not going to change the reality that there will always be a sizeable gay population whether you like it or not. Maybe someday you’ll have a son or daughter or grandson or grandaughter who’s gay and you’ll realize your backwards viewpoint isn’t close to accurate.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Michael Ham,“This country wasn’t formed on Christian morals” – quite a few people, including President Obama of whom you seem to be a supporter (please note, “seem to be”, not “are”), would disagree. Will it remain one? The jury is still out on this one.Every child in America should be taught facts. And the facts, aside from moral, are that being gay is inherently dangerous, AIDS being first but not only danger. Other STDs are much more spread in gay community comparing to general population. Ditto drug and alcohol abuse. Violence, both gay-on-gay and anti-gay, is also much higher risk.On the other hand, AIDS is pretty much self-inflicted disease affecting only a very small at-risk part of the society. Instead of spending innumerable funds on the search for a cure or inoculation, attention should be paid to curbing the spread. And the funds spent on cure would be better spent elsewhere. Cancer, for one, doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation.“Beating your wife is sick, abusing your kids is sick, killing others is sick…” – nope, in my books (and, more importantly, in the books of law) that is criminal. And being homosexual is just sick. Now, I’m not for persecuting or abusing people just for being sick. Yet I’m against glorifying that sickness, even more against spending tax money on that glorification. And even more against spreading the sickness to impressionable youngsters.“The average american family has a hell of a lot better idea of morals than those slimeball bureaucrats in Washington. That’s why people have parents.” – finally something we agree on. The infamous “Rainbow Curriculum” was invented and pushed on kids by “bureaucrats in Washington”. And protested against by parents.And finally, about “tiny minor effect on your life”. Recently I heard on the radio that some gays sued for the right to donate blood without being subject to blood test, claiming it to be discrimination. Chances are, they might win in the name of political correctness. But there’s a chance you might eventually need a transfusion. What if it happened to be a contaminated batch? Letting homosexuals (read – potential AIDS/STD contamination source) near blood supply, is just as dangerous as issuing a blind person a driver’s license (why? isn’t it an equal rights thing?). Will you still be as tolerant when you are notified that the blood used for your treatment was contaminated with AIDS?

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Anonymous,I saw I’m for limited government and you think I’m an Obama supporter? I have him 3rd on my worst of all time presidents after Bush and Woodrow Wilson and by the end of his term he’ll probably pass Bush. I’m a Ron Paul supporter through and through.Being gay isn’t more dangerous than straight, no birth complications, and I don’t believe your abuse statistics, not with how many man verbally and physically abuse their wive’s and children these days. I’ll need a link for that. Plus plenty of straight people contract STD’s and deadly STD’s too.If you’re advocating for sex ed courses to teach ways for gays to have safe sex than great, I’m all for that. If you’re advocating for sex ed courses to point out being gay as a dangerous and immoral lifestyle than that’s a vile form of prejudice and that seems to be what you’re saying and you’re hiding behind it with this health argument.If gays were viewed as equal members of society in Washington than it’d be unconstitutional to ban gay marriages, which once again, hurts no one. All it would do would be to help some retailers who are struggling who could make big money with these expenditures.I’ve never seen the gov’t aggressively promote gayness, sounds ridiculous.Everyone’s blood should be tested, straight or gay have the potential to have aids or something else that can harm someone. If I’m given AIDS filled blood donated by a gay person I’ll blame the facility if they didn’t follow procedure or I’ll blame the government for not inputting the proper procedures.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

opening line should read “I said I’m for limited government”

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Michael Ham: Your point of view is wrong and misleading; the USA were founded on Christian Morals and Principles; I advise you to read the first chapter of the declaration of Indepence of the United States; in spite of your biased views, it was a thorough Christian declaration of freedom.

Posted by alfonso | Report as abusive

Michael Ham,“you think I’m an Obama supporter?” – Admittedly I got this wrong – but some of your reasoning made me to. Usually aggressive pro-gay, pro-life, anti-Christian happen to be aggressive Liberals and Obama supporters.“…3rd on my worst of all time presidents after Bush and Woodrow Wilson…” You forgot to mention Jimmy Carter. Preaching “human rights and democratic freedoms” to Brezhnev was simply idiotic. Withdrawing support from Shah in the name of the same values and losing Iran to Khomeini – the worst foreign policy blunder in US history, IMHO. Add to that stagflation – and Obama or whoever comes thereafter would have hard time to surpass Carter for the title of Worst President Ever.“I’ve never seen the gov’t aggressively promote gayness” – never heard about Rainbow Curriculum? Tell me no taxpayer money was spent on creation and promotion thereof.I’m advocating not portraying being gay as being cool. Of course some people have their brains wired wrong way, and they’ll discover their orientation with or without external help. However I want to protect young people from things they can’t process adequately. If they can’t buy smokes or drinks until they’re 18, in some places even 21, that means they are considered not capable of making informed decision about using these. How then they can make informed decision about their orientation? They can experiment with it just because they made to think that it’s cool – and it’s that proverbial slippery slope. Portray it as dangerous and disgusting instead (death from AIDS is disgusting without a doubt), and this may postpone experimentation until the age when they can think for themselves.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Alfonso and Anonymous,You can believe this country was formed on being Christian that’s fine, I’ll respectfully disagree but I do know 100% beyond any shadow of a doubt that our country wasn’t formed on the notion that we’d have government imposed morality lessons and to have the taxpayers pay the burden of such.I just view everyone equally, Christian, Muslim, Gay, Straight, Buddha or Bi, sadly as this comment board and often times in society we’re showing a desire to go to backwards old ways of living that advocates for us all to judge anyone who thinks/acts/looks differently than we do. From having gone to a christian school for 3 years and church for 18 years I remember being taught differently and that doing that was a terrible sin but I guess my teachers were all incorrect, yes?Again, people being gay doesn’t hurt you in any marginal way, you just need a way to vent your hate, which is sad to me. Like I said hopefully someday you have a gay friend or family member so you can learn and this chain of gay-hating in your family stops at you.I’m also seeing where part of this comes from, you’re republican and christian, 2 entities that train their followers to hate gays. Carter was a terrible present but he didn’t expand government or spend or give failed attempts at american imperialism near as much as Reagan/Bush.Oh and Iran is nothing to worry about, their government is far better than ours. They hated Saddam Hussein while we were giving him money and military support.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Michael Ham,“I just view everyone equally, Christian, Muslim, Gay, Straight…” and then in the same post “…republican and christian, 2 entities that train their followers to hate gays…”. You really have to determine which one of these defines your position. Somehow you think that gay pride parades and gays promoted in the media as cool role models are OK, yet referring to the Scriptures (and Lev.20:13 as an integral part thereof) is not. One lifestyle has every right to be glorified, the other must be kept inside church walls.As for teaching hate, being neither Republican nor Christian I can neither confirm nor deny it. What’s for sure, I’m not one from “God hates fags” crowd. I don’t care what they do to each other as long as they keep it to their bedrooms. But I will not let my son anywhere near a summer camp where the leader is openly gay. Since these folks can’t reproduce naturally, they aggressively recruit among the youths new members into their so-called “community”, and that recruitment is something I categorically oppose. And, by the way, if I’m not mistaken, Ron Paul was running in Republican primaries.Looks like you were badly upset by something or someone in the Christian school you once attended. Understandable – it’s a part of growing up, I also was at some time dreaming about setting fire to my school, so much I hated it back then. Most kids eventually get over it. Apparently some keep carrying it inside into adulthood.And yeah, “Iran is nothing to worry about, their government is far better than ours.” They surely must be left alone developing nukes and delivery means, they do it only as scientific experiment. They don’t threaten anyone, except Israel, America, Europe, and all other infidels not embracing their brand of Islam. And, by the way, they don’t discriminate against gays, they just hang them.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Anonymous,I have plenty of friends and family who are christian and repulican, probably a majority in fact. If someone hates another group of people like you do, I don’t hate them back, I feel pity for them. I can only get myself to feel pity for people who feel a need to hate an entire group of millions of people who have done absolutely nothing to harm or hurt them.Maybe you aren’t someone who preaches God hates Fags but that’s not much different from saying it’s disgusting/immoral/dangerous.Gay pride parades are shown in a good light in the media, so are christian events, the million man march, people of all sects. Gays certainly have no positive bias, you just don’t want anything positive said about them.Ron Paul ran as a Republican, but come on, you and I both know he’s nothing like every other trash member of that party.Nothing bad ever happened to me at my Christian School, it was a great school.The U.S. Government has killed a million Arabs with these 2 wars, we killed 6 million Vietnamese in the 60′s and 70′s and in that time frame Iran has killed a few dozen gays. Their government is unequivocally better than ours. Why would I be worried about them maybe having 1 nuke in 20 years when neocon governments like the U.S. and Israel have thousands of such nukes already and will happily start preemptive wars? Who’s got a better chance of using one?

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

Michael,You again contradict yourself. To you, keeping kids away from homosexual propaganda is hatred, but hanging a few dozen gays just for being what they are is OK. Doesn’t look like double standard?Besides Iran killed a comparable number of Arabs since the time it became mullocracy. I’m too lazy to look up the stats, but Iran-Iraq war was one of the bloodiest since the end of WWII. The mad mullahs killed their own, too. Their favorite way of clearing minefields was sending battalions of teenagers, often armed only with quran, to attack Iraqi positions behind the minefields. And only after these youngsters were expended they’d send in tanks and real troops.Iran stands behind multiple acts of terror against US troops in Iraq – even more so than al-Qaeda. Iran is ultimately responsible for acts of terror by Hezbulla and Hamas. If any part of W’s definition of “Axis of Evil” was true, it was Iran. Kim with his “satellite launch” looks plain laughable. As turned out, Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction program was a bluff, and it was invented to scare Iran, W just stupidly bought into it.And now, about Israel’s presumed nukes. Even if they, as presumed, exist since 1960′s, they have never been used, even though there were many occasions any other country in their situation would, 1973 Arab attack to name just one. You can’t name any other state that was openly threatened to be “driven into the sea” or “wiped off the map”.“neocon governments like the U.S. and Israel have thousands of such nukes already and will happily start preemptive wars” – what neocons? BHO? Puhhh-lease. The only time Israel started preemptive war – 1967 – it was ruled by Labor (which is their euphemism for Socialists). Incidentally, the aftermath of that war was the time when Israel was most popular around the world (except Arabs, Islamists, and Communists). Even the current Israeli gov’t, dubbed “the most right-wing in history”, is a hodgepodge of Socialists, Centrists, and Populists, none of them is anything like a plain Conservative, let alone neocon. Even Lieberman is more realist than ideology-driven, he just doesn’t hesitate to spell out what others only whisper in private conversations. One nuke in the hands of mad theocracy is higher risk of being used than all American, Soviet, European, and Israeli nukes, combined, at the peak of Cold War.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Anonymous,I’m not saying anything good about the Iranian gov’t, it’s not a good government. It’s just not as hellbent on murder as the US and Israeli governments are, both will happily blow up buildings full of women/children/civilians and then not let the press investigate then after a week or so say they killed one or two “terrorist gunmen” to justify the total slayings.BHO is a neocon, he’s no different than Bush. He just sent a 17,000 person death squad into Afghanistan, where we no longer even have a mission. Republicans and Democrats are the exact same thing in office, they just spit different lies in their campaigns. Both passed big government bailouts, both have record setting spending budgets, neither cares about border security, both are big on nation building, both tax us through the roof, nobody’s repealing the patriot act, both big on dumping money down the drug war bottomless well, I can’t think of one major difference. Neocon is right on the money.Plus, for your own good, stop making references to Obama’s middle name. Makes you look silly.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Dear Mr Clinton. I am glad that you still continue to work hard for a better world and seat on your laurels. Its great to hear you talk about Pedro Zamora who made a big impact upon my family, which at that time were very prejudicious, but changed as they watch on the screen how Pedro’s life unfolded in from of their eyes. Now they work to fight HIV/AIDS. It is so important people understand that everybody has to get involved in the camp againt HIV/AIDS and other human tragedies and no matter how little one’s contribution might be… it will always make a huge difference.

Posted by Sergio Flores, Sweden | Report as abusive

Would encourage youngster to enter into politics.Make a new party put front new ideas and implement it. increase literacy level.