Sean Sasser, AIDS Activist Known From MTV’s “The Real World,” Has Died

“Our friend Sean Sasser has died,” Judd Winick wrote Wednesday night of his MTV housemate Pedro Zamora’s former partner.

AIDS activist Sean Sasser has died, several of his friends announced Wednesday night.

The activist and black, gay man whose face and spirit became a part of the MTV generation’s gay and AIDS awareness through his relationship with The Real World’s Pedro Zamora had been a prominent part of the San Francisco season of the MTV show, which aired in 1994. Zamora, who was HIV-positive, died shortly after the season ended.

Sasser moved to D.C. in recent years as a result of a job his current partner, Michael Kaplan, took running AIDS United, a nonprofit group aimed at “end[ing] the AIDS epidemic within the United States.”

Earlier this year, The Washington Blade talked with Sasser about his new job as the pastry chef at an area restaurant. Sasser’s aim: “I want to serve desserts and pastries that people recognize and love to eat, but sometimes with an unexpected twist of surprise.”

Dan Renzi — from The Real World’s year in Miami — wrote of Sasser’s death at Queerty:

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.

Judd Winick.


Our friend Sean Sasser has died. Our love goes out to his family & husband Michael. We will miss u so much.

/ Via

Wilson Cruz


My hearts. Another beacon of light in our community is darkened tonight with the passing of AIDS activist Sean Sasser. In your name we fight

/ Via

Here’s an episode of The Real World, featuring Sean Sasser:

View this embed ›

Of Sasser’s life and death, Renzi wrote:

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.

Sasser and Zamora, from The Real World:

Exchanging wedding bands a decade before any same-sex couples could legally marry in the United States:

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