Happy Birthday, Pedro Zamora!

It's leap year! It's February 29, a special day that only comes once every four years. This special day is the 40th birthday of a very special person - Pedro Zamora. Now, I've read that he was born on February 29th and I've read that he was born March 1st (maybe people started celebrating his birthday on March 1st to make sure it gets celebrated every year - I'm not sure). Regardless of which day he was actually born, it seems right to celebrate his birthday on a rare, special day because Pedro was a rare, special person.

I knew Pedero Zamora through the reality TV show "The Real World - San Francisco." When I say that I knew him, what I mean is that I really, really felt like I knew him. But, I never met him. 

"The Real World" reality series is the first reality series I ever watched. The first "Real World" season was in New York, then Los Angeles, and then came Pedro's season - San Francisco. 

When I first started watching "The Real World", most of the cast members were a bit older than me, so these kids were my peers. I was crazy about the show, and I looked forward to each new episode, and each new season. I loved being able to see what other people around my age were up to in their lives. I loved being able to see them working toward their career, or working toward finding out what they wanted to do with their lives.

Pedro Zamora was miles ahead for his age. While others my age were planning their next drunken night, or crying because they didn't get to go to the college they wanted to go to, Pedro didn't waste one moment of thought on those kinds of typical young people's problems. Pedro Zamora had a much bigger issue to deal with, and yet he didn't let that hold him back either.

Pedro Zamora was living with AIDS. And he was really living! Pedro was passionate about educating people about AIDS. He was always busy, going off to classrooms or auditoriums filled with people to educate the public about HIV and how to protect ourselves. This was at a time when many people were still extremely uncomfortable with the subject of AIDS (many people are still uncomfortable, but not at the level of those days). Back then, many people were still unsure of what caused it, if they could get it simply by touching someone with HIV, and many people didn't understand the importance of a condom.

What a difference Pedro Zamora made when he emphasized to people what a difference a condom makes. I wonder how many lives he saved by educating people about the importance of wearing a condom. 

Some adults back then feared that by emphasizing that people wear a condom, that will encourage teenagers and young adults to be more promiscuous. They were wrong. Those of us who were not promiscuous didn't start becoming promiscuous simply because we were educated about condoms. Condom education isn't a turn-on. It's simply education. Education about the importance of wearing a condom simply made those who were freely having sex realize that they had to start wearing a condom to protect themselves and others, and it made those who weren't freely having sex realize that the next time they were in a relationship, whether it be a commited relationship or marriage, someone needs to be wearing a condom. 

I thank Pedro for being unafraid to go out and talk about an issue that people were ashamed of, or frightened of, or judgemental of. Pedro Zamora was brave to put himself out there during a time when people were especially vicious with their words about people who were HIV positive. 

People couldn't help but love Pedro. He had a sweet and kind spirit, a genuine smile, and a passion for wanting to help people. We will never know how many lives he saved with this words, but we do know that his message lives on. A whole new generation of kids have grown up in an age where people are much less afraid of the topic of AIDS, thanks to Pedro Zamora. He was an important educators who got us all talking about it, and because of that, next generations won't have to go through the sad lack of knowledge that generations before them went through. That is, as long as AIDS education continues. 

Thank you, sweet Pedro. You were someone I really looked up to and admired, and I still do. Happy 40th birthday, sweet soul!

 

 

Thank you to 

 

Pedro was so special that a movie was made about him: http://www.pedrothemovie.com/