'Real World' Star Dies: AIDS Activist Sean Stasser Dead at 44, MTV Star and Pedro Zamora Live On Through Landmark TV Moment, Activism

By Scott Taylor | Aug 10, 2013 08:47 AM EDT
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Sean Stasser
(Photo : Facebook/RealWorld) Sean Stasser

Real World star and AIDS activist Sean Sasser has died at the age of 44. Sasser was a part of TV history when he had a commitment ceremony with fellow Real World star Pedro Zamora on TV. The couple's exchange of vows during Real World's third season in 1994 became a landmark moment in TV. According to CNN, Sasser died of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. Sasser was diagnosed with the disease just last month. Sasser's partner Michael Kaplan reportedly broke the news; the couple shared a home in Washington State.

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Sasser parlayed his reality show fame into a very good cause, becoming a well-known AIDS activist. Sasser had been HIV positive for 25 years according to CNN. Sasser rose to fame in 1994 when his relationship with fellow Real World house member, Zamora, became public. This was at a time when gay couple's and someone with AIDS were not prominently displayed on TV yet.

According to CNN, Zamora had been diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 17 and was already a well-known AIDS activist when he was cast on the MTV reality show at the age of 21. Sasser revealed on the show that he was HIV positive. Tragically, according to MTV (via CNN), Zamora died just hours after the airing of the now famous episode where he and Sasser exchanged their vows on TV.

Sasser reportedly moved out to Oregon, Washington and moved in with Kaplan about six years ago. According to Kaplan (via CNN), Sasser's illness got worse quickly and he spent his last week at bed in home. Our thoughts go out to Sasser's family and friends.

"RIP to a member of the MTV family, groundbreaking Real World star + AIDS activist," MTV tweeted.

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