Schmid Talks About His Year Anniversary After Going Public With His HIV Status
You may recognize the face of hunky, ABC News Reporter, Karl Schmid. In March 2018, Schmid publicly revealed he is living as an HIV+, undetectable man for the last ten years. I reached out to Schmid to have a conversation with him, not realizing he would be celebrating the year anniversary of his public bravery to the very day of our sit-down interview. Admittedly, Schmid likes a bit of mystery surrounding his personal life, but I’m incredibly nosey and wanted to get to know him as much as possible. After such a grand announcement, I wanted to really dive into the man behind that decision. Thankfully, Schmid agreed to an interview and after meeting him at Katana Robata in Hollywood, I’m coming loaded with all the details we want to know. Oh, and yes, he is just as much of a stud in person, too. Check out our interview below:
Mickey Keating: (After realizing his Australian accent) Where in Australia are you from?
Karl Schmid: I’m from a town called Geelong, it’s about an hour and ten minutes drive south of Melbourne. Nowadays, Geelong is considered a suburb of Melbourne, but it’s really a city. I lived there with my parents and two older brothers until I was ten years old. Then I moved to Fiji with my parents. My brother (Kristian Schmid) was on a successful soap opera called Neighbours, which launched the careers of Russell Crowe, Kylie Mingoue.
MK: Wait, you have a famous older brother? Were you ever jealous of him?
KS: There is a six year gap between myself and Kristian, who was on the television show. I was never jealous, I’ve always admired both of my brothers. I was seven years old when he was filming, and he’d take me to the set. I walked onto this giant soundstage and saw what people would see on their televisions. I was like ‘Wow, I’m mesmerized by this world of make believe’ and it peeked my interest into the entertainment industry.
MK: Did you want to become an actor because of him?
KS: I was a child actor. After Fiji, my family and I moved to New Zealand and I was a child actor in a series called Mel’s Amazing Movies. It was a kid’s drama series with a female lead. Her and her group of friends would make home movies and they’d get up to all kinds of crazy adventures. I played Mel’s boyfriend, I had very long hair back then. Then I got a job on a show called What Now? It’s a very Nickeldeon type of weekend morning live kid’s show. We had a studio audience that would get covered in slime. I worked on that show from fifteen years old until I was eighteen.
MK: We’re you home schooled during this time?
KS: No, I was still going to high school. We only worked on the weekends.
MK: So you were popular because you were on a popular television show?
KS: I would go sor far aso say I was “popular”, but I wasn’t disliked in school. I enjoyed it. It was a progressive school, the largest school in the southern hemisphere at the time which I chose because of their Arts’ Program. I had very liberal parents. My mother is from Hungary, my father is Austrian and I’m a first generation Australian.
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12 months ago today I took a leap into the unknown by sharing my truth on social media about my HIV status. To be honest, I really didn’t think that me being open about my HIV would be noticed by anyone other than perhaps a few colleagues and associates. How wrong I was. Now, a year later and literally thousands of direct private messages from people all around the world and from the most unlikely places, I am proud that I took that leap. As I said in my original post, I was advised by the most well-meaning of people not to talk publicly about my status for fear that it could ruin me. Or that I’d be labeled as “that guy on TV with AIDS”. But here’s the thing, if not me then who? You see, for as long as we don’t talk about HIV and what it means in 2019 to be HIV+ then how can we ever expect people to change their minds, educate themselves and each other, and be more open, understanding and compassionate towards those who do live with those three letters and a symbol attached to them? For too long we haven’t talked about HIV. HIV doesn’t care what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have or who you love. It’s out there. But here’s the good news. WE NOW HAVE THE TOOLS TO END THIS VIRUS! Just this week Dr. Robert Redfield of the CDC along with his colleague Dr Anthony Fachi, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases BOTH reiterated that if you are HIV+ and have an undetectable viral load YOU CAN NOT transmit the virus sexually. That’s not my opinion, that’s not a doctor’s opinion and it’s not the opinion of some HIV group. It is the science and the evidence. It is Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. Thank you to every single person who has messaged me, supported me, doubted me and challenged me. You’ve all made me a better person for it. I will keep on living my truth and living my life to the fullest. And for those of you who might still be there in the shadows not sure whether it’s safe, or your time to step out into the sunshine yet, well that’s ok too. Just know that you’ll have a friend out here waiting for you when you feel ready to. I’m Karl Schmid, and I’m an HIV positive man! #uequalsu #stophivstigma
MK: We’re you openly gay during high school?
KS: Yes and no. Because I was working in an adult world for part of it, I was kind of out from the age of seventeen years old. When my mother asked me if I was gay, I told her it was none of her business. I never lied to my family about my sexuality. I was still figuring it out. I was very attracted to girls, but I was also very attracted to boys. I didn’t want to put myself in a box. I didn’t know and didn’t want to talk to my parents about my sex life as a teenager, let alone even being a thirty year old. No one wants to discuss their sex lives with their parents.
MK: When did you come to America?
KS: I came to America in August 2002 while working as a personal assistant for a famous Australian actor, Barry Humphries, better known as Dame Edna Everage.
MK: *Gasping* Oh my God! I used to watch her with my grandma on Hollywood Squares!
KS: I received a call from a former intern who had worked in an office with me at a previous job. I was twenty-one and miserable. This intern said they were looking for someone to go on a global tour with Dame Edna. At first I laughed, being 21, of course I thought I knew everything, ‘I’m not an assistant!’ But, you have to understand Barry Humphries, is the Bob Hope of Australia. He’s a living icon. I’m still friends with Dame Edna.
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Very proud and excited to be part of the #abc #oscars family this weekend. First up is #RoadToGold on Saturday night and then we have you covered all day on Oscar Sunday starting at 1:30pm PST with @otrc at the Oscars. Immediately after the Oscars telecast we’ll be back LIVE with On The Red Carpet After the Awards and in LA after the 11pm news even more LIVE with On The Red Carpet After Dark. Can’t wait! #otrc #redcarpet #visibilitymatters 📸 @kristengloverphotography 👔 @suitsupply
MK: When did you find out you were HIV+?
KS: October 3, 2007. I was newly 27 years old and living and working in London. The first reaction I had when I got the news, that is to say the first thing that popped into my mind was a red, digital countdown clock. At the same tim I thought to myself, ‘How could I tell this this to my parents?’ I was twenty-seven years old and had to go back to work. I told my boyfriend who was then in Japan. My boyfriend immediately broke up with me. He was the first true love of my life and to this point, he’s been the last. We’re still good friends and we still see each other as we both live in Los Angeles. He was scared and his immediate reaction was to break up with me and tell me I’m dangerous. In hindsight, I understand his reaction. Even in 2007 the information we had about what it means to be HIV+ was very dfferent from that it is now. He also grew up in a very religious family and had never been exposed to HIV before. Neither had I for that matter. He was also 23 at that time. We’d been together for eighteen months. He’s since apologized but I wasn’t looking for an apology.
MK: Out of coincidence, today (March 22nd) is the one year anniversary of you making your announcement of living with HIV. What gave you the courage to make that decision?
KS: You know, now with the understanding of what it means to be undetectable and thus untransmittable – that is to say, that science and medicine has now confirmed that because my viral load is so suppressed thanks to the meds I take, that it simply means that I can not transmit the virus sexually, it feels like someone has finally unlocked the handcuffs that were put on my on October 3rd, 2007.
There’s an Instagram called The Aids Memorial, which I follow. They celebrate and remember people with HIV who have passed. I bought this t-shirt three months prior which they promote called The Aids Memorial t-shirt. I had taken a photo in this shirt earlier in the day at happy hour with some friends here in LA. After being a little buzzed, I was looking at the photograph I took in the shirt and loved it. I started writing to the Aids Memorial team and said ‘I don’t have a favorite uncle who died of AIDS, but I have my story.’ And then I hit send. I figured, since I’ve sent it to the AIDS Memorial, I might as well put the picture and caption on my Facebook. Then, it went viral.
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Hi. I’m a 37 year old HIV+ man who has been poz for almost ten years. I work in television. And on the side of the camera where, fo better or worse it’s considered “taboo” for people “like me” to be “like me”. For 10 years I’ve struggled with “do I or don’t I”? For ten years the stigma and industry professionals have said, “don’t! It’ll ruin you”. But here’s the thing. I’m me. I’m just like you. I have a big heart and I want to be loved and accepted. I may be on TV from time to time, but at the end of the day I’m just an average guy who wants want we all want. To be accepted and loved by our friends and family and to be encouraged by our peers. So here’s what I say, stand tall, and stand proud. You can’t make everybody happy but you can make you happy. And so long as you tell the truth, you will never have to remember anything. Labels are things that come and go but your dignity and who you are is what defines you. I know who I am, I know what I stand for and while in the past I may not have always had clarity, I do now. Love me or hate me, that’s up to you. But, for anyone who has ever doubted themselves because of those scary three letters and one symbol, let me tell you this, you are somebody who matters. Your feelings, your thoughts, your emotions count. And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I’m Karl Schmid, and I’m an HIV-positive man! #whatisrememberedlives @theaidsmemorial @theaidsmemorialtshirt Sent from my iPhone
KS: All of the sudden, my phone started going berserk. By lunchtime the following day, it had gotten stupid. I was at The Grove in Los Angeles buying coffee and found out The Hollywood Reporter had written an article about me. I started to panic, because it looked as if I’d given a lot of interviews and I didn’t know what my current job, ABC, would say. The announcement was news to them and they may have thought that. Fortunately for me, everyone at ABC has been supportive. If coming out as HIV+ has affected my career, I currently don’t know about it.
MK: It seems like you’ve found a voice now with HIV activism. Why now?
KS: Outside of what I did with Megan Kelly on NBC, network television in this country doesn’t want to talk about HIV. A lot of my friends in the gay community gave me flack for going on Kelly’s show and that’s exactly why I did it. Her audience is who we have to talk too. They are all sympathetic and know it’s important, but it’s always “not the right time” to discuss it.
On the stigma of being HIV+ in society:
KS: I was in Atlanta recently moderating a CDC panel and the two most infectious disease specialists in the country, Doctor Robert Redfield and Doctor Anthony Fauci, have both now categorically said if you are HIV+ and undetectable, you can not spread the disease sexually. For all the stigma that exists within the LGBTQ community, you know, the “are you clean?” or “You’re HIV+ you’re not worth the risk.” There is no risk. This is information that needs to get out to every person, especially in this country. Every person in this country has to have access to HIV medicine. We now have the tools, evidence, and science to eradicate HIV. If you took every HIV+ person and gave them medicine? Guess what would happen? It would go away.
There are still doctors and healthcare providers who think their opinion matters to HIV+ patients. I don’t care about your fucking opinion. This is science and this is fact. There are many doctors in this country who are against PREP because they don’t want to encourage that “lifestyle”. Who are they to put their opinion, beliefs, and agenda ahead of their patients? They are essentially saying: If you’re on PREP, that means you only bareback? That’s a dangerous statement. These doctors are there to provide healthcare, not an opinion. We now have the top government officials in the country saying very clearly, if me, as an HIV+ undetectable guy were to sleep with you bareback seven times in one evening, there is zero risk for someone to catch HIV.
MK: You mentioned earlier that you haven’t been in love since your ex-boyfriend left you ten years ago. What is your dating life currently like?
KS: In the last twelve months, I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I have a lot of internalized stigma over my HIV and I coming to learn that’s not all that uncommon. I used to make jokes about my HIV status with guys. Like I’d meet a guy and he’d be kind of cool. I’d say something like, “on you don’ wanna be with me, I have AIDS”. I’d say it jokingly. I realized, since coming out with my status, I used to accept and believe nobody unless they were HIV+, would date me. (Proverbial) We are damned if we do, damned if we didn’t. I tried to date. But, if I told someone straight away my status, they’d ask why I told them. If I waited until the third date, they would get angry that I hadn’t told them. I got to a point where I said fuck it. I had the dating apps, but don’t find them healthy for me to find dates on.
MK: Why did you delete them?
KS: Online dating isn’t a true connection. I found them to be a time suck just scrolling and swiping. I realized why was I doing that?
MK: Are you anti-dating?
KS: I’m anti-bullshit. I have a lot of walls up, which I’ve been working on bringing down since coming out publicly. There’s a lot of bullshit in the dating scene in Los Angeles. I look at some people who are in relationships, but I’m like that looks just awful. Some are either cheating or bitching about their boyfriends. That doesn’t look like much fun. I have a small circle of people who are incredibly important to me. They are the best thing in my life. Those friendships, relationships, are freeing and great.
MK: Well, someone is going to come along. Who are you most likely to hit on at a bar? The bouncers? The gogo dancers?
KS: If we’re just going on an aesthetic, if you took a sampling of the people I’ve dated over the years, I guess I like guys who are darker than myself. I’m not a blonde hair, blue eyed kind of guy. But, as corny as it sounds, I could be attracted to somebody because of their laugh and maybe they will be a blonde hair, blue eyed person who I wouldn’t expect. Looking around a bar, it would be someone Latin, most likely. I don’t know who I’m going to be attracted to or who I’ll fall in love with. I like people who are confident in themselves and most importantly who could laugh at themselves. Someone who doesn’t take themselves or life too seriously and are honest. I like feeling I’m connected with you rather than the brand of you as a person who is only living for social media.
MK: Well, you’re living in a fantasy.
KS: I’ve lived in Hollywood for ten years. I had someone come up to me at the gym a few days ago who said to me ‘Hey you’re looking really good. You’re making gains. You’re really handsome, if you work just a little harder on you’re body, you’ll be hot.’ It was this remarkable backhanded compliment telling me I’m enhancing, but I’m not hot. This is a tough town. I struggle with body issues a lot. I’m not an unattractive person, but in West Hollywood, I can feel like a fat pig. Then, when you put the HIV on top of it, *sighs*. There will be someone out there who cares, but until then I’m trying.
MK: The 2020 presidential election is coming up and the media has been in a frenzy. Who are you rooting for right now?
KS: I’m rooting for the person who will put this country and more importantly the wellbeing of ALL of it’s people before themselves and their own agenda. Barack Obama came in and corrected it after the George W. Bush years. There are too many to choose right now. America is my adopted home and I can’t legally vote until next year. I pay all the taxes and everything a citizen would pay, but I cannot vote yet. Politics I’ll lean more in the Democratic way of thinking, but I’ve had dinner with Donald Trump as I worked for an association of his for a while. What you’re seeing if what you’re getting.
Schmid was absolutely breathtaking. On top of speaking to you as if you’ve been his friend for years, you instantly feel warm and invited by him. It didn’t take much convincing, but the reserved Schmid even brought an Adonis pal of his, Chris Bair (owner of Shorty’s Barber Shop in West Hollywood), for moral support. At first I was like wait, was it something I said?! But, after speaking to him it’s clear he hadn’t had many interviews where someone is digging into his personal life as much as I attempted. He answered all of my questions and made me feel like the reporter he truly is. He’s a star and I cannot wait to see much more of him in the future. He’s a powerful voice and I’m excited for his future and image in the LGBTQ community and beyond.
I’m sure he’s going to have plenty of you in his direct messages now from YOU, so I’ll finish this up and let you peep his profile. Before you do, you’ve got to check out this gorgeous photograph we took below!
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I love my job for many reasons. Aside from getting to spew my sometimes unpopular opinion, I get to meet and interview really impressive people who are in the public eye. @karljschmid is an ABC news reporter in Los Angeles and was so much fun to speak with. Thanks for the candid conversation and being yourself. ❤️
Writer’s Note 1: Quotes have been edited for clarity.
Writer’s Note 2: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.