It is a happy World AIDS Day for Mondo Guerra. The young designer who made headlines for coming out HIV-positive on the hit Lifetime series Project Runway spoke with dot429 this morning. While en route to speak at the United Nations in Washington, D.C., Guerra weighed in on his decision to come out HIV-positive, the trials and tribulations he has experienced, and shares advice with young people dealing with HIV.
Guerra tested positive for HIV ten years ago while his boyfriend remained negative. Guerra tells us, “The first thing I felt was scared and then I worried and went into denial. I lost a lot of direction and didn’t care about reaching my goals anymore. It was a lot of heartache. To be twenty-two years old and think you caused this to your family was hard.”
Guerra is recognized as an energetic and outspoken advocate for HIV/AIDS and credits Project Runway and his passion for fashion with helping him to become the man he is today. “Project Runway changed my life. I emotionally connected with myself and came out a different person. My decision to come out [HIV-positive] happened organically—it wasn’t forced. I learned a lot about myself that allowed me to open up about being positive.”
After years of being sick, including two hospitalizations for pneumonia and a diagnosis for Kaposi Sarcoma, Guerra realized that he had to change his attitude. “I had to make a conscious decision to have a positive outlook on life. I had to start caring about my health and other people. I had to get out of that low place and start setting goals.” Reconnecting with his creativity, things got better for Guerra, who found himself face to face with fashion’s most elite set: Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia.
Guerra’s vibrant designs wowed the judges on Project Runway, and his advocacy for HIV/AIDS continues to wow the world. “My creative life is the most precious thing to me besides my family.” Guerra has now partnered with Piperlime, a San Francisco-based online retail company, to create two exclusive, limited-edition T-shirts in honor of World AIDS Day. The sale of each T-shirt benefits the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and continues to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.
Lending not only his fashion talent but also his compassionate voice, Guerra has advice for anyone that tests positive for HIV: “Don’t underestimate the power of unconditional love. HIV does not define who I am.”
Happy World AIDS Day from Mondo Guerra and dot429.