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'Real World' star and AIDS activist Sean Sasser dead at 44

Pedro Zamora (L) and Sean Sasser at their commitment ceremony on
Pedro Zamora (L) and Sean Sasser at their commitment ceremony on "The Real World" in 1994.

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Before it was all about hot tubs and hookups, MTV's the Real World was groundbreaking.

The show's third season in 1994 was set in San Francisco, and cast member Pedro Zamora was one of the first HIV-positive men to have his life documented on a national TV show. Also, almost 20 years before gay marriage became legal in California, he traded wedding bands with his partner Sean Sasser, who was also HIV-positive. 

But shortly after that season of the show ended, Pedro died from complications due to AIDS.

And this week, Sean Sasser also died. He was 44, and passed from mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer.

Looking back, Pedro and Sean had a big effect on Generation X, and they've been credited with putting a human face on the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Tyler Argüello is a faculty member at the USC School of Social Work who also conducts HIV-AIDS therapy, research, and education for LGBTQ populations.