AIDS Walk to Honor HIV Activist Sean Sasser

Annual Courage Award to be Presented at Walk

Washington, DC – The 27th annual AIDS Walk Washington will present its annual Courage Award to the late Sean Sasser, well-known HIV activist, at the Walk on Oct. 26 at Freedom Plaza. 

Having lived for 25 years with HIV, Sean Sasser died in August at the age of 44 after a short but difficult battle with Mesothelioma. Sean discovered he was HIV-positive when he sought to enlist in the Navy at age 19. When the Navy denied him because of his HIV-status, Sean went on to become an AIDS educator and activist. As a young black gay man living with HIV, Sean sought to educate others and organize support. He participated in a number of videos and a national AIDS awareness campaign photographed by Annie Liebovitz. He also facilitated social support groups for HIV-positive youth at Bay Positives in San Francisco.

In 1993 Sean’s life was thrust into the spotlight when his then-boyfriend Pedro Zamora starred in the groundbreaking season of MTV’s “The Real World San Francisco.” Their relationship, their commitment ceremony, and their tireless AIDS activism were all documented within mainstream media. After the very public loss of Pedro to AIDS, Sean continued to speak out, travelling across the country to educate others about HIV.  Sean served as a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS; and worked with a broad array of organizations over the years including HIFY (Health Initiatives for Youth), GLAAD, HRC, and the AIDS Alliance for Children Youth & Families, to name a few.

“Sean made his difference in the world - not for what he said – but how he lived – how he shared his life, himself and his love,” said Michael Kaplan, Sean’s partner and President of AIDS United.  “Letting his love and passion drive in relationships, in mentoring kids, in his cooking or in speaking out on HIV – he was powerful – by simply being. I know he would be proud to receive this honor and I thank Whitman-Walker for acknowledging his life and work.” Kaplan will receive this award posthumously honoring his partner of eight years.

“There is no denying that Sean played a pivotal role in public perception of HIV,” said Don Blanchon, Executive Director of Whitman-Walker Health. “Sean showed the world a face of HIV it had never seen before: a happy, healthy young man living his life, falling in love, and working to make a difference in the lives of others. His story was an inspiration to millions of people whether they had been touched by HIV or not. Whitman-Walker Health is profoundly honored to recognize the life and work of Sean Sasser with the annual Courage Award.”

All proceeds from AIDS Walk benefit HIV services at Whitman-Walker Health and more than a dozen Community Partner organizations. For more information on AIDS Walk or to register, call 202-332-WALK or visit

Established in 1978, Whitman-Walker Health is a non-profit community health center located in Washington, DC. Our mission is to be the highest quality, culturally competent community health center serving greater Washington’s diverse urban community, including individuals who face barriers to accessing care, and with a special expertise in LGBT and HIV care. Whitman-Walker Health offers primary medical and dental care; mental health and addictions counseling and treatment; HIV education, prevention, and testing; legal services; and medical adherence care management.  We are especially committed to meeting the health needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and people living with HIV/AIDS.