BREAKING: Sean Sasser, AIDS Activist And MTV Star, Dead At 44

Sean Sasser, AIDS activist extraordinaire, has died at age 44.

Sasser entered the American consciousness as Pedro Zamora’s boyfriend on MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco, back in the early 1990s. Zamora passed away not long after the show ended, due to complications of the disease — some say the stress of the filming process led to his deterioration in health at a time when HIV medications were much less effective than they are today. Sasser lived on, working for numerous political and social organizations and becoming a well-known AIDS activist in his own right.

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.

Sasser may not be familiar to people who did not see his episodes of The Real World, and he did not live his life in the limelight after the show. But his one brief turn in front of the cameras was enough to make a major impact. 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.


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  • Michael

    So sad he is gone but I know that Pedro was at the gate with open arms. Sean will surely be missed

  • BarLackey

    He continued to bring a minority face to what has long been associated in minority communities as a “white boy’s disease.” For that we tip your hat to you Mr. Sasser, we will continue the fight.

  • oilburner

    @BarLackey: dude I doubt that the article states he has a life partner

  • LuLuBelle1111

    Sean was an amazing survivor, activist, chef and friend. He continued the fight and made our lives all the more incredible just knowing him. He is loved and will be sincerely missed. Love and prayers to Michael and his family, LuLu

  • QJ201

    @oilburner: Don’t you know polygamy is OK in Heaven?

  • Scribe38

    I was barely out to any one during this season of the real world. Sean and Pedro where so important in seeing the reality of a loving gay relationship and the consequences of unprotected sex. I am deeply sad both are gone. They made the gay teen in me a little less afraid of living, a little more hopeful that love between men could be real.

  • Leslie

    One of the Strongest Gay Voices of my generation. Especially being African-American , who like Pedro Zamora , broke so MANY barriers within his own Black community. I can’t be sad without also smiling that he is FINALLY able to celebrate his legacy with Pedro in the heavens:) R.I.P.

  • Cam

    So sad that people are continuing to drop dead of a disease that many think is completely manageable and in control now.

  • dannyboi2

    Awh, So sad, RIP, My condolences to his family and friends.

  • JimboinLA

    It’s such a tragedy. I’m 46 and I feel lucky that people my age were warned. I was a fifteen year old virgin in 1981 when gay men started dying. My father had a business partner who died in 1981. Sean was thirteen in 1981. Why on earth did he have unprotected sex?? That’s something I can’t understand. I missed out on a lot of sex by staying alive. But I’m 46 and HIV negative and when I have regrets for living an extremely sexually cautious life I am reminded why I did. RIP Sean Sasser. You and Pedro helped save my life.

  • tjr101

    As a kid I watched him and Pedro’s relationship. It was comforting to see, RIP.

  • jeff4justice

    Back when MTV actually played shows that were insightful.

    Now anything connect to MTV is dumbed down garbage.

  • Rockery


    I got a little teary eyed at your comment

  • Kangol

    So very sad. He and Pedro were pioneers. RIP, Sean Sasser, and my condolences to your husband and family.

  • luciferosirisarnold

    AS Long as I can remember I could always tell will was living or dead just by looking at their picture and they both look dead and I really was sad watching Zamora pass. Sean ws a good man and seems to have found love RIP. I hated Puck.

  • Tackle

    I’m glad that Sean found and had love in this life with his husband Michael. Condolences to all close to Sean. Some of these comments are inappropriate. Sean lived with HIV for 25yrs. I wouldn’t call that just dropping dead. And he died from mesothelioma which may , or may not have been linked to his HIV. It is extremely poor taste to question why he had unprotected sex at 13yrs of age. Really? Why even bring that NOW! ! We don’t know if he did, and most of us don’t care. And so many seem to be stuck in the past and just cannot get away from Sean and Pedro not being a couple. But not to diminishe the relationship and love Sean and Pedro shared at that “time”, which know doubt opened Sean’s heart to loving deeper and stronger. And that he did with the love of his life. His husband Michael. And all with Pedro’s blessing.

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