January 12th, 2011
02:53 PM ET
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.
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.
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.
CNN: Do you think those stigmas are lessening now that people are becoming more educated?
Guerra: Honestly, I don't think people are educated enough. I feel like the conversation about HIV/AIDS has kind of slowed down in the past few years. I don't think that the stigma is going away at all. If anything, without education, it's going to only increase and in five years it might be worse than it is now because we're not talking about it anymore.
CNN: Can you tell me about Jeans for Life?
Guerra: Jeans for Life is an organization out of L.A., and it helps people that can’t afford their own medications in 50 countries around the world. There's a thrift store out in L.A. called Out of the Closet and they hold a drive that you can donate jeans to. Every pair that gets donated gets re-sold and that money is donated to the Jeans for Life foundation.
CNN: Speaking of jeans, let’s talk a little bit about your career. Was there a certain item, collection, or designer that convinced you that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Guerra: No, I just wanted to be cool. I've always been a creative guy, and coming out of high school [I] wasn't necessarily very cool. People have different ideas about what's cool and, for me, what was cool was what you were wearing and what your exterior looked like. So I started to look at fashion magazines and re-make the looks, so to speak, and going to thrift stores and re-purposing clothing. I was inspired by the idea of being cool.
CNN: What is the first garment that you ever designed?
Guerra: The first thing I ever made was a pair of fluorescent green faux fur pants – I was a big raver back in '95/'96.
CNN: Any plans to come back to "Project Runway" in any capacity for season nine?
Guerra: I really hope they do call me back because I would love the opportunity to go back and introduce a challenge or even be a judge. I've been on the chopping block – I want to be on the other side this time.
Hear more from Guerra during “AC:360’s” “ Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS" special this Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.
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