AIDS activist Sean Sasser, who shot to prominence in 1994 as the boyfriend of "Real World: San Francisco" housemate Pedro Zamora, has died at 44.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) confirmed news of Sasser's death on its website. Candace Gingrich-Jones calls the activist "powerful messenger who brought the reality of living with HIV/AIDS to living rooms across the country" and "down to earth, very passionate about his cause" in a poignant testimonial.
Queerty has more details on Sasser's death:
According to his life partner, Michael Kaplan, Sasser died of mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lungs. No other information was released immediately about his medical condition, but mesothelioma has been linked to a weakened immune system in some people with AIDS.
Long before "Ellen" or "Will & Grace" showcased gay people on TV living mainstream lives, and before the magic of protease inhibitor “cocktails” turned HIV into a manageable disease, Sasser gave a brave face to both issues and brought those taboo topics to educate millions of young Americans.
And perhaps his early death is a stark reminder that for many, HIV is still a disease, a lesson he undoubtedly would not want anyone to forget and be proud survives him.
In recent years, Sasser had been focusing on his work as a D.C.-based pastry chef and sharing his life with partner Michael Kaplan, according to the Washington Blade (Zamora, who tied the knot with Sasser in a commitment ceremony seen on "The Real World," died in 1994 after his season of the series aired).