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Designing for Life

Designing for Life

How did you get involved with "Know Yourself: Get HIV Tested?"
I had the honor of appearing in an HIV educational video with Janssen Therapeutics, and that's where we linked up. It was a nice transition from doing the video and talking about something I was very passionate about to doing something I'm very passionate about. What's great about this is that I'll be able to help get the word out in the way I know best -- through creative means.

What are your hopes for the program?
I want people to be encouraged and know that getting tested is just something they need to do to maintain their health. It's like brushing your teeth -- not doing it shouldn't be an option. I want people to get out there, get tested, and be healthy. Because if they know their status and they're healthy, the people they have sex with will be healthy as well. It doesn't look like HIV will be going away anytime soon, but ignoring it is definitely not the right choice.

You're creating a mural for the New York event?
Yes. And I am looking to my fans to give me some advice on how they think it should look via my Facebook artist page or I'll be glad to take anyone's inspiration -- I'm an artist and a designer that loves collaboration. All I know for sure is there will be lots of color and the mural will be encouraging and uplifting but also very direct.

You're working on Color Splash as well as the new show HGTV'd, and you're also a mentor on Design Star. Where do you get the energy to do so much and still manage to give back to the community?
I don't know where the energy comes from. [Laughs] It's probably just the result of such great things happening all around. Because there are so many amazing things in my life, I felt the need to reach out and do this. It's an important subject that affects every single person out there. And I'm happy to be able to bring more awareness to it.

Is the "Know Yourself" initiative aimed primarily at gay men?
It is, but only because I'm gay and I know gay men better than any [other group]. But it's really meant to bring awareness to everybody about the importance of getting tested.

When did you first get involved in the fight against AIDS?
I think the fight begins when you get tested the first time. It's a very scary thing to do, especially when you're young. I remember back in the day it took two weeks to get your results, and those were the worst two weeks ever. For me, the fight's been going on ever since.

When were you first personally impacted by HIV/AIDS?
My second boyfriend and I were together five years. His best friend had HIV, and I watched him struggle with his medicines. At the time, the medicine was really hard on the body. But he's doing great now. He's living a healthy lifestyle, and over the years I've seen him go from a handful of pills down to one pill, which is really amazing.

What do you see as the biggest hurdle in the epidemic?
I think people are lazy, honestly. I think they're like, Well, it's a manageable disease -- therefore I don't have to protect myself. If worst comes to worst, all I have to do is pop that pill. And that is just not the way to live. No one wants to live with a condition that requires daily medication. It's hurtful to the body. [The medicines do] great things when you have HIV, but do you really want to have that as an option when you can just slap a condom on?
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