Culture

Remembering Pedro Zamora, The HIV-Positive Man Who Changed Hearts And Minds While On ‘Real World: San Francisco’

Back in 1992, MTV first aired “The Real World,” which went on to define reality TV forever. The shows premise and tagline — “This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a house… and have their lives taped…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real… ” — seemed like a fresh concept. At the time, viewers were simply taking in how people from different backgrounds got along. A lot of the time, they didn’t. In the middle of all that TV drama, something unusual was taking place: viewers were meeting individuals that presented extraordinary stories. In the show’s 27-year span, only one person stood out among them all and is remembered for literally changing the world. 

Credit: @dc408dxtr / Twitter

For those not familiar with Zamora, his life story is a remarkable one of survival. He was just 8-years-old when he and some of his family members left Cuba on the Mariel Boatlift and settled in Miami. Sadly, his mother died of cancer a couple of years later when he was 13. Zamora still excelled in school. It was around this time that he realized he was gay. While he did come out to his family, they mostly feared that Zamora would get discriminated against because of his sexuality. 

At 17, Zamora found out he contracted HIV and decided to bring awareness to his disease. 

Credit: @theadvocatemag / Twitter

While attending Miami Dade College, Zamora became a fierce AIDS educator. One of the most impressive traits that he possessed was that he could engage with people of different ages and backgrounds. He was a great speaker. It was his charming characteristics and profound knowledge that made him perfect for TV. He ventured into several famous talk shows of that time to speak about what it was like to be a young gay man living with AIDS. 

With the encouragement of friends, Zamora felt he could reach more people with his message of empathy and education about HIV and AIDS by auditioning to be on MTV’s “Real World.” Naturally, he was one of nine to be cast on the show. 

As a cast member on the show, Zamora helped to educate his housemates about living with AIDS. Those moments on MTV also informed millions of viewers. Zamora loved for people to learn about his Cuban culture. 

Credit: @simplymiatx23 / Twitter

Today with the lack of Latino representation in the arts and entertainment industry, we now see how rare it was to have two Cuban Americans on MTV talking about their culture and family. Another castmember that has continued to be in the limelight was Zamora’s housemate Rachel Campos Duffy. She was a young conservative back then, and she still is today as the wife of former GOP representative Sean Duffy (he too was a former cast member of the “Real World” Seattle). While Rachel and Zamora clashed on various topics, including his homosexuality, their bond broke through her closemindedness. 

While Zamora died shortly after the last episode of the “Real World” aired, his legacy continues to be inspiring 25 years later.

Zamora’s housemate and one of his loudest advocates today, Judd Winick, who wrote the 2000 book “Pedro and Me” said this on social media: 

“I’d ask that on this incredible milestone that we try to remember how he lived, and how he literally changed the world, rather than focusing on our loss of him. By appearing on The Real World in ‘94, he showed everyone what it was really like to be living with AIDS, to be living out, to love, to be loved by friends, supported by family—to have a full life. And it seems crazy that this was a lesson that needed to be taught. But it did.” 

Rachel echoed that sentiment on the 25th anniversary of his death on Twitter: “@RealWorldMTV changed many lives -including mine. #PedroZamora died 25 yrs ago today, but his impact lives on. I miss Pedro & the days when MTV respected young people enough to make shows like the Real World, San Francisco.”

For those of us who watched Zamora on the “Real World,” we learned about showing empathy and compassion for those that suffered AIDS and HIV and continue to live with it today. Zamora also taught viewers to always show kindness, respect, and love for one another.

Credit: nycaidsmemorial / Instagram

Click here for more information on the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship and The Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship

READ: A Single Mom On DACA Is One Of The Newest Cast Members On MTV’s New Season Of ‘The Real World

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Mother And Teen Daughter Endured Ten Years Of Separation, A Dramatic Border, And A Covid Hospitalization To Be Together

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Mother And Teen Daughter Endured Ten Years Of Separation, A Dramatic Border, And A Covid Hospitalization To Be Together

Separated from her mother for a decade, seventeen-year-old Cindy (who is only being identified by her first name) took a chance last month to see her. Despite her age, a raging pandemic, and the risks of crossing the Mexico–United States border she journeyed from Honduras to see her mother in New York. Her love for her mother was so deep, she was willing to risk everything.

In her mission, Cindy wound up in U.S. immigration facilities where she contracted Covid-19. After three days in a hospital bed in California, Cindy was finally able to contact her mother who had not learned of her daughter’s hospitalization.

Thanks to the help of a doctor who lent her their phone Cindy was able to make the call to her mother, Maria Ana.

“There are backlogs and delays in communication that are really unacceptable,” Maria Ana’s immigration lawyer Kate Goldfinch, who is also the president of the nonprofit Vecina, explained to NBC.

After learning about her daughter’s COVID-19 hospitalization, Maria Ana feared the worst. “Following weeks of anguish and uncertainty, Maria Ana spent most of her nights painting the bedroom she has fixed for Cindy, just ‘waiting for my girl,'” she explained to NBC.

Last Wednesday night, Maria Ana flew to San Diego to be with her daughter after she’d finally recovered from Covid.

At the emotional mother-daughter reunion, Maria Ana assured her daughter “no one else is going to hurt you.”

After Cindy crossed the border, she spent several days in a detention facility in Texas in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. According to NBC “On any given night, Cindy said, she would share two mattresses with about eight other girls. She could shower only every five days in one of the eight showers the facility had to serve 700 girls.”

“It was really bad,” Cindy told the outlet..

Cindy was among almost 13,350 unaccompanied children left in the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS. This last year has seen over 3,715 unaccompanied children at these facilities diagnosed with Covid-19. Worse, there are currently 528 unaccompanied children who have tested positive for Covid-19 and put in medical isolation.

Now, immigration advocates and families are pressing the U.S. government to pick up reunions of children and their families in the United States. Over 80 percent of unaccompanied minors currently in federal custody have family living in the states. According to Goldfinch, “40 percent have parents in the U.S.”

“So we would think that it would be fairly quick and simple to release a child to their own parent. But because of the chaos of the system, the reunification of these kids with their parents is really frustrating and backlogged,” Goldfinch explained, “most frustrating, of course, for the actual children and their parents.”

While Cindy was in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, no one managed to notify Ana Maria that her daughter was in the hospital according to Goldfinch

“I don’t know why my daughter has to be suffering this way, because it’s not fair. It’s something very sad for me,” Maria Ana explained to NBC

“I’ve already been through a lot,” Cindy went onto share. “But I hope it’s all worth it.”

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Here’s What You Should Know About Getting Your Covid Vaccine

Entertainment

Here’s What You Should Know About Getting Your Covid Vaccine

The world has almost turned the page on the Covid pandemic that has upended our lives for the last year. Vaccine strategies across the nation are helping to end the pandemic, but we are not out of the woods yet. Here are some things you and your family should know about getting your vaccination.

The vaccines are safe and effective.

In the U.S., there are three main vaccines that people are getting: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. All three have been proven to be safe and effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 109 million doses of the vaccines have been administered to people in the U.S. Millions of Americans have lined up and gotten vaccinated with a very small number experiencing the rare serious side effects.

The common side effects from the Covid vaccine are pain or swelling at the injection site, headache and chills, or a fever. These side effects disappear on their own quickly. After your vaccine, according to the CDC, you can expect to be asked to wait 15-30 minutes to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Vaccination personnel are equipped with the medication and treatments needed to reverse serious and threatening allergic reactions to the vaccine.

There are currently three vaccines available in the U.S.

Americans can expect to receive either the Pfizer-BioTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson / Janssen vaccine. Currently, these three are the vaccines that have been approved for use in the U.S. to end the pandemic. Pfizer-BioTech and Moderna vaccines require two shots taken three weeks and four weeks apart, respectively. Johnson & Johnson is a one-shot vaccine. All have been proven effective in preventing hospitalization from the virus.

There are currently two more vaccines in Phase 3 of their trial that could bring even more relief to the American public. The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novava vaccines are currently being tested and are showing promising results in the U.S. trials.

Speak with your healthcare provider about medications and the vaccine.

There is still a lot we do not know about the vaccine as we are still learning its full effect. As of now, healthcare providers and experts don’t recommend taking pain relievers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen) or antihistamines to avoid vaccination side effects. It is unclear how these medications will impact the efficacy of the vaccine.

The vaccine is not a replacement for wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

It is important to make sure that you follow proper Covid safety guidelines when you get vaccinated. This is for the safety of you, your healthcare provider, and anyone else in the area.

Covid safety guidelines aren’t going away any time soon. Even as you and those you know get vaccinated, it is important that people continue to wear masks when in public and maintain social distancing when possible. While the vaccines are effective in protecting you from getting sick and going to the hospital, doctors are still learning whether or not vaccinated people can spread Covid. This is why fully vaccinated people need to practice social distancing and continue wearing masks to ensure that they keep their communities safe.

However, for people who are fully vaccinated, life is a little freer. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks and no social distancing. Fully vaccinated people can even gather with one unvaccinated person from another household who is at a low-risk of severe Covid infection. Lastly, fully vaccinated people do not have to quarantine when they are exposed if asymptomatic.

This is the first set of guidelines released for fully vaccinated people and it is showing that life can start getting back to normal as more people line up to get their shots when they are eligible.

READ: Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

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