Karl Schmid, the handsome host of “On The Red Carpet” and reporter for ABC7 in Los Angeles who came out as HIV+ in a candid social media post this past March, spoke with The Today Show’s Megyn Kelly what it was like to share his status with the world.
With an upbeat tone and message, Schmid told the TV audience his goal in coming out was to hopefully breakdown the still-painful stigma surrounding HIV today.
The entertainment reporter hit several important points along the way, beginning with the fact that in some states you can be arrested, convicted and put in prison for 8 years as a felon for having consensual, protected sex without disclosing one’s HIV+ status.
After Kelly noted that some consider the idea of having sex with someone who is HIV+ a ‘death sentence,’ Schmid clearly (and correctly) states, “Undetectable equals untransmittable – I’m here to bang it into everyone’s heads.”
Dr. Antonio Urbina of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City was on hand to help underscore that message.
“Right, so that’s that ‘U=U,’” said the physician. “A person living with HIV takes their medications, drives their viral load down to undetectable, their chances of transmitting is zero.”
Asked what his first thoughts were upon being told he was HIV+ almost ten years ago, Schmid candidly shared his mind went into ‘survivor mode’ telling himself, “Ok, this is what I have to do.”
But noting how difficult it is just to come out to our families as gay, the 37-year-old Australian said his first clear thought was, “Oh my gosh – I’ve let my parents down.”
“I think that most parents, when they find out their son is gay, one of the immediate fears is ‘Now he’s going to get AIDS.’”
Addressing the fears that come with HIV/AIDS, Schmid feels in the early years of the pandemic those concerns were necessary to help stop or slow the spread of the disease.
“People were dropping like flies, we had to stop this – it was very important,” said Schmid. “We had to scare the poo-poo out of people.”
Conjuring up the decades-old images of sickly, high-contagious HIV patients from the 1980s and early 1990s, Schmid admits many people still hold those ideas in their heads.
Turning to the camera, Schmid boldly stopped, gestured to himself, and declared, “This. This. This – hello, camera two – this is HIV+ in 2018. Take a look.”
He also told Kelly that the news of his status was met with great support in the workplace.
But in sharing some of the heartbreaking messages he’s received since coming out publicly, Schmid emphatically announced, “This stigma is real – and it’s unnecessary.”
It’s a tremendously powerful segment, both in the message and the facts.
Schmid prefaced his appearance with a Facebook post which read, “When I was 15 I first came to NYC and remember seeing Rockefeller Center and the NBC peacock and NBC News sign and saying to myself, “one day I’m going to be on The Today Show.”
“Little did I know 23 years later I would be on The Today Show with Megyn Kelly TODAY…talking about something much bigger than myself (for once)!” the 37-year-old Australian added. “The fight against HIV stigma. Hopefully I can help start a new conversation about what it means to be HIV+ in 2018. Oh yeah, and I hope I make my mum and dad proud.”
Here's Schmid’s original Instagram post from March of this year coming out as HIV+:
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
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