As host of the advice-giving radio program Loveline, Dr. Drew Pinsky is no stranger to educating listeners about the topic of HIV/AIDS.
To create a bigger impact in the media, the doctor and head of Dr. Drew Productions has partnered with MTV to air the 60-minute special I’m Positive -- following the lives of three young people in the U.S. who are HIV-positive -- in hopes of encouraging all young people to take part in ending the viral disease. The documentary will air Saturday in observance of World AIDS Day.
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“It’s so self-evident that I have to live my own history, to remind people the fact that I got into radio back in the early '80s was because of AIDS and HIV,” explains the former KROQ radio personality-turned-VH1 reality doctor on what inspired him to pursue the documentary. “It was what motivated me -- that was the topic that I felt was so important that I had to talk about it, educating young people about it.”
In addition to PInsky’s collaboration with MTV, he revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that co-producer Lauren “Lo” Bosworth from Octagon Entertainment (and formerly The Hills) was the one who approached him about getting involved with the project.
“It was actually her idea. She came up with it because she had several friends dealing with it. She was so fascinated that -- first of all, the face of HIV has changed -- she had no idea that her friends had it, even, and started to become interested in how does it work to take the medication, how often do you have to see the doctor, do you still have sex – yes, you have sex -- how do you navigate that?”
These are the kinds of myths and misconceptions that the doctor hopes to address in I’m Positive with the three individuals -- Kelly, Stephanie and Otis -- who show how they manage to live a healthy life despite being infected by the deadly virus.
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“As a resident [doctor] treating a lot of AIDS patients -- and back then, when someone would come in with their first episode of pneumonia, we would sit them down and say, ‘You have six months to live’ and we were right, every time. A good outcome was six months,” recalls Pinsky.
He explains that, “Things are so changed now. People have sort of lost track of the fact that there’s still 1.2 million people with this disease... It’s there, but these people are living long lives with these conditions, and the manifestation of HIV has really changed. So we have to retell that story.”
It’s the story of these three figures that the Lifechangers host hopes will help viewers gain a better understanding of those affected by HIV.
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“In one of these scenes, the girl is talking to her mom -- she is HIV-infected,” says Pinsky in reference to Stephanie, a North Carolina girl who was infected at age 19. “And the mom, who is my age, immediately assumed it was a death sentence, that there was no possibility for survival, that six months to live was still the paradigm, as opposed to the fact that it’s more like diabetes -- you take your medication, you live a normal life expectancy.”
For HIV-positive individuals who want to maintain a positive lifestyle, Pinsky -- without any hesitation -- offers one piece of advice: “Taking their meds – bottom line.”
He continues to advise, “Getting your viral load down to zero. When you get your viral load down to zero, you reduce the risk of transmission of HIV by 90 percent.”
“Ultimately, I just hope it gets the conversation in front of people’s minds that it’s almost a new paradigm -- HIV,” concludes Dr. Drew about the goal he hopes to achieve with this documentary. “It’s not something that’s going away soon, but hopefully it will go away one day.”
The reality doc plans to continue informing the nation about HIV/AIDS as he participates in President Obama’s AIDS policy, the first of this type of initiative to take place in the White House.
The I’m Positive special airs Saturday at 7 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.