'Project Runway' star on life with HIV
January 12th, 2011
02:53 PM ET

'Project Runway' star on life with HIV

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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Filed under: Project Runway • television

soundoff (67 Responses)
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    November 28, 2013 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. GuitarHarry

    Who cares? This obsession with anyone who manages to get on TV is just pathetic. I mean, really...watching a TV show about fashion designers is like listening to a carpenter talk about his work-BORING! It's unfortunate this man contracted HIV, but why do we need to know about his personal business? This is not "entertainment news" but rather silly gossip.

    January 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DTOM

    Just another freak of nature!

    January 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BodeeHouse

    Uh oh, looks like Mondo's losing weight like a Biafran. Buh bye, pretty designer, you'll be seeing Rock Hudson soon. I think he died of botulism, fwiw.

    January 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PILLGUY

    DON'T FORGET TO TAKE YOUR PILLS BRO

    January 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dale

    "I'm not only serious Kyle, I'm HIV positive"

    January 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MA

    THAT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE GAY.

    January 13, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. WinterClover

    Mondo totally should have won Project Runway, that other chick was a joke!! I am excited for Mondo and all the future holds!! He has done Denver and Colorado very proud!!

    January 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chuck

    No doubt about it that Mondo should have won Project Runway. And I believe Michael Kors thinks along that line also but he went for Rachal. Can't quite grasp his thinking that Rachael was the better designer. Her line was quite morbid what with all that brown fabric and not one outfit that screamed at you. Now Mondo had a line that made everyone take a second look. But regardless, he seems to have a real bring future. Good for both of them!

    January 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Suz

    Hey Kat – my response was to someone's comment above that didn't come up properly.

    But thanks for calling me an idiot. That's great.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mkub

    Anybody else think it's strange that his biggest struggle is remembering to take his one medication every day? I mean really, I've been taking birth control pills for years and haven't missed. In fact, I stop taking them for a week and always start back on the correct date.... I'd be way more scared of dying from AIDS than I am of getting pregnant (and therefore more responsible). Tip for Mondo: Set your cell phone alarm!!!

    January 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. john

    PLEASE!!!!!

    HIV is one of the easiest to prevent in the world! Orders of magnitude more children die of luekemia and CF than people with HIV. Its incrediably rare that anyone gets infected anymore from transfusions since testing started for it almost 20 years ago. Hollywood needs to quit giving it such a spot light and needs to help where its really needed!!

    January 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Derek

    I can't believe all the ignorant remarks on here. Especially from Cris who thinks gay men should "act" straight whatever that means. Stupidity is rampant these days just look at the ciphers on these boards.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. the_dude

    If you walk around with a haircut like that you are just asking to be abused. Oh, btw, the aids is a gay mans disease. Sure some straight people get it because of their own incredible stupidity but for the most part it is a gay disease.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. cuz i said

    why is it that those in the fashion industry have the worst sense of fashion...good GOD that's hideous!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  16. Stephanie

    In my opinion it takes a strong person to open up about this disease. Nothing can be more devastating than being diagnosed with HIV, even though with medication it is possible to live long and prosperous lives. I think the stigma is still there, and I don't think HIV is talked about enough. I think young children should be educated about it and how to prevent it. My children will be taught that not only is abstinence best, but will also know how to protect themselves not only from HIV, but other STD's.

    I have a lot of respect for Mondo and his willingness to bring this disease front and center and for his work with Jeans for Life. It's a sad day in this country when people cannot afford life saving medications. I do hope he experiences continued health, and that he has a long happy life continuing his charitable work and designing clothes.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  17. hockeymom

    Mondo, you are a wonderful individual and an extremely talented designer. I'm both sorry and angry that the moronic judges on PR voted for the untalented, boring, and egotistical "diaper girl" instead of your innovative, bold and unique collection! I wish you all the best.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  18. gazer9757

    Mondo made me cry when he confessed he was HIV+. I have met some really cool people who were HIV+ in the past few years and it is nice to see someone who is bringing notice back to the public. I beleive the since HIV is no longer the popular cause to promote as it once was, (remember all the celebrities that were banding together against HIV and AIDS), that education will slacken. It is not a "gay" disease. Go take a look at the AIDS Quilt. Each block is the size of a grave. Each block holds the name, dates of life, and memories of that loved one. I took my daughters to go see it and my oldest stood at one block for over five minutes. It was the block for two babies who died. She came away from that experience with a new outlook. HIV and AIDS can affect and effect us all. Hearing some of the stories of those with the disease, or loved ones of those with the disease is an eye opener.
    I had the chance to talk to one young woman who lost her mother, her father, and her uncle all before she was a teenager. She is now an advocate for education and prevention.
    Thank you, Mondo, for bringing it to the public notice again. Oh, and I was rooting for you to win on PR. I beleive your creativity was genuis.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  19. Justin

    Here is a scary equation... I take Atripla, an HIV medication, and without insurance, a 30 day supply costs $2,000.00. Now, there are an estimated 30,000,000 people in the world living with HIV/AIDS. Take $2,000.00 multiply that by 30,000,000 people, and you have the drug company making $60,000,000,000.00 for every 30 day supply. Now you can't tell me the drug companies aren't making a ton of profit and praying off people's lives, and this is just one medication...

    January 13, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • CommonSense

      You need to adjust your calculations. First of all, only a small percentage of those estimated 30,000,000 people living with HIV/AIDS pay the $2000/month, as prices are adjusted based on the economic conditions of the regions in which the drug is marketed/distributed. In poorer countries, the drugs are quite a deal cheaper. Additionally, most pharmaceutical companies run patient assistance programs that provide free medications to people who cannot afford to buy their medicine. Let's look at some real numbers, shall we? During the fourth quarter of 2010, sales of Atripla were $697.8 million. Keep in mind that sales do not equal profit – still gotta cover the salaries of thousands of employees, pay the bills, etc. How much does it cost to bring one new drug to market? Estimates vary from around $500 million to more than $2 billion. That's just for one drug, and most decent-sized companies have many more products that are going through the drug development process. So, these research & development cost also eat away at the money generated from sales. I can't deny that drug companies are making profits but not as much as you claim. They are businesses after all, not not-for-profit organizations. I also disagree with your statement that they're preying off of people's lives. Certainly, your life and countless others' lives wouldn't be nearly as long without HIV medications, like Atripla, cancer treatments, and a myriad of other medications for the treatment of serious illnesses.

      January 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  20. allie

    Could someone PLEASE teach CNN the difference between "affect" and "effect?" This is a great story and deserves PROFESSIONAL reporting.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      I agree with you there. They need someone to edit these stories before they post them. It's actually embarrassing to read these stories and find so many grammatical errors. Even their live broadcasts can be painful to watch. For example I once heard a news anchor say "EKscape". Shudder!

      January 13, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  21. Suz

    Great way to start my day – reading an interview of a confident, upbeat person who is making the best out of his life and trying to help others do the same. Loved this!

    Thanks, CNN, and thanks, Mondo! (I won't even make a hair comment!)

    January 13, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  22. Lillianne

    In my opinion, he did win. He participated, he was able to show people who he is, and he continues to participate in life. I can't even remember the name of the person who won because her designs didn't interest me in the least. Mondo's designs are memorable.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  23. Craig

    What's more tragic is living with that stupid haircut.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  24. Nashvilledeb

    Love Mondo! You go, guy. And as far as Project Runway is concerned, Mondo was robbed.

    January 13, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  25. jimbo

    There is no good reason or excuse to seroconvert. Mondo got exposed to HIV through foolish behaviour. I feel less sympathetic about him.

    January 13, 2011 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Would you say the same thing about someone with lung cancer? I.e. that you have less sympathy because they should've known the dangers of smoking? Compassion is about putting aside the judgement and condemnation and just loving and supporting the person.

      January 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Old sku mami

    who the hell is Moody? Lol sorry i meant Guerra..

    January 13, 2011 at 4:10 am | Report abuse |
  27. Old sku mami

    the slowdown of talks regarding HIV/AIDS doesnt necessarily mean that therell be an upward spike in individuals getting infected..prevention methods are brought to schools and clinics and not a day goes by that scientists arent testing and retesting numerous cures..Moody u may not feel like it, though, youre amazing as youre living proof that we can overcome obstacles and be well damn good at it..luvya for your determination to overcome

    January 13, 2011 at 4:07 am | Report abuse |
  28. Old sku mami

    the slowdown of talks regarding HIV/AIDS doesnt necessarily mean that therell be an upward spike in individuals getting infected..prevention methods are brought to schools and clinics and not a day goes by that scientists arent testing and retesting numerous cures..

    January 13, 2011 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
  29. D

    You're a ray of sunshine

    January 13, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  30. btr big time rush

    $#*( u all

    January 12, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  31. D

    owch that was harsh...someone's ate a bitter pill today

    January 12, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Shane Botwin

    I really like Mondo, but I wish he would quit dressing like those munchkins who sang about the lollipop guild.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  33. D

    LMAO! I just remembered that it kinda looks like a mountain goats horns...

    January 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  34. D

    I'm so not liking the hair...he needs a professional stylist that is a female...

    January 12, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Pamela

    Mondo was definitely the best designer on PR that season. I thought almost everything that Gretchen designed was hideous and unwearable (I referred to her as wretched Gretched and lost a lot of respect for the judges.). Mondo was robbed of the win. I'm impressed that he put himself out there and is using the small amount of fame that he achieved to do something other than just promote himself. He is brave and I wish the most success and health for him.

    January 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Kelley

    I am very happy for Mondo. I am horrified at the editing in this article. The author needs to learn the difference between "effect" and "affect". I can not believe such an obvious grammatical error is allowed on CNN. Shabby and sloppy.

    January 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      Ok, so I am not the only one that noticed the 'affect/effect' goof!!

      January 13, 2011 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I thought the same thing! Wasn't that shocking that CNN would allow that to get through their copy editing process? They should be ashamed.

      January 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Newsflash, guys, they don't edit much anymore. Like you, they rely on spell check. Words like affect/effect are not caught be a computer.

      January 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Chris

    Another queen... an embarrassment to straight-acting gay men everywhere.

    January 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobby

      Straight acting? Oh God, not that old cliché again. Men who like men are not straight acting. By definition, they are the epitome of gay acting men.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • CBinKY

      "Straight-acting"? Why would you want to "act" straight? Naturally,s ome guys are masculine, some are feminine, regardless of gay or straight. At least he has the balls to act naturally as to him as opposed to letting some idea of a hyper-masculine straight guy be the standard to which he holds himself and his self-worth.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      CBinKY: I have yet to meet a an effeminate guy who wasn't gay.

      January 13, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Yugo

    Mondo is Mondo talented. He makes me wish I had hair again!! However, he's no Christian Siriano.

    January 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJsMom

      Mondo is Mondo, we never once tried to be a Chriistian Siriano, they are both equally as talented. I wish them BOTH the best. Mondo should've won this past seasons PRW....

      January 12, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Holly Golightly

    cheefsfury, will you be my friend? :)

    January 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  40. D

    LMAO! I just about peed myself reading that post!

    January 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  41. cheefsfury

    STAY POSITIVE

    January 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Maggie

    Good to hear from Mondo again. I hope his design career is thriving; he was totally cheated on Project Runway because he created a brilliant collection (which is the point of the finale) and the winner created only a line (which people have been busted for in the past, being told they are supposed to create a collection). I love that Heidi Klum wore the dress that Michael Kors asked her during the judging if she would wear and she had told him yes. Heidi, I wish you could have had more pull about the outcome of that finale. You were right to argue that Mondo deserved to win. I have lost any respect I ever had for Kors and Nina Garcia.

    Mondo, you're the best!!!!!!!

    January 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJsMom

      I agree with you that Mondo should've won, he was the most creative....I also wish him the BEST :-)

      January 12, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • LittleMo

      I know this story was about the HIV/AIDS but I have to say that I agree that Mondo should have won PR. During Jeffrey Sebelia's season Laura made a big stink about Jeffrey having help sewing. I remember Tim saying something about one of the requirements being that each designer had to make all their own things and Gretchen said very clearly that the someone else made the jewelry in her "line." I am not a tween – I'm 54 – but I would not wear any of Gretchen's outfist – I thought they were hideous. My personal style would have been Andy but considering everything I agree Mondo should have won.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • shibbygirl

      Mondo's collection was brilliant- not only my taste, but the only collection that was original and fun to watch on he runway. Great showmanship and I would love to own anything he designs.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • SusieQ

      I completely agree. He produced a spectacular, very creative collection, above and beyond what they asked for, and what did they do – they picked "safe". I was terribly disappointed.

      January 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      Accident

      January 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  43. tt

    thanks for illustrating his point A hole.....he does not have AIDS....he is HIV positive.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  44. HIVPOSITIVE

    Why is it always the uneducated who rail against education? AIDS is a syndrome which develops when HIV goes unchecked. I myself was infected eight full years before being diagnosed. In those eight years, I could have potentially infected multiple partners, but fortunately only your little sister didn't want me to wear a condom. You're welcome.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  45. Daniel

    @HIVPOSITIVE – thanks for the detailed account of your HIV history. Your response holds more weight with the chronological order of your HIV infection to date does it? You assume that we care about you and how your own carelessness created a situation you currently find yourself. How very narcissistic of you.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  46. BG

    Maybe next time you want to call someone uneducated, you'll spell YOU'RE correctly.

    January 13, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  47. Suz

    Well, next time you sin, I hope you get a life-threatening disease.

    There – now how did that sound? Because that's basically what you said.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  48. kat

    He did. Idiot.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |

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