Back in 2007 Jack Mackenroth kept no secrets about the fact that he is HIV-positive while he was a contestant on Project Runway. But even after his run on the show was cut short before the season’s end because of health reasons, the star continues to shine. In the fall of 2008 Mackenroth put his two decades of experience of life with the virus to work when he helped launch the Living Positive by Design project with drugmaker Merck. As the face of the campaign, he travels around the country talking about dispelling the myths that bolster the stigma surrounding people who are HIV-positive. This year Mackenroth completed a Living Positive by Design panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. (The quilt, started in 1985, incorporates panels contributed by family and friends of people lost to AIDS; it’s reported to be the largest piece of community art in existence, weighing in altogether at an estimated 54 tons.) The quilt panel completed by Mackenroth is composed of several smaller designs created by people he’s met while traveling the country on his outreach efforts.
And Project Runway was back in the HIV news spotlight again in October, when contestant Mondo Guerra designed a fabric pattern that incorporated a plus sign. “This print is also just symbolism for who I am now,” he explained to the judges during deliberations. “It’s just very, very personal, and it tells a story.” But realizing he left the judges puzzled by not explaining more, he eventually decided on air to share that the symbolism was his own 10-year journey of being HIV-positive. The plus-symbol fabric pattern and his design that incorporated it won him that week’s challenge.