When hunky ABC reporter Karl Schmid decided to come out as HIV-positive last year, the circumstances were refreshingly nonchalant. “There was no vicious ex threatening to out him, nor were there signs of reporters planning on breaking a story. Instead, he chose to come out by posting a now-famous photo wearing an AIDS Memorial T-shirt on Facebook,” I reported in my cover story for Plus Magazine last July
“Honestly, I just thought I looked cute in that picture,” admitted the Australian native, an on-camera reporter for ABC in Los Angeles and the former cohost of Logo’s Operation: Vacation. “I was going out to happy hour with some friends, so I threw it on. And while out I said, ‘Will you do me a favor — can you get a picture of me in this thing? Because at some point I want a post wearing it.’”
Since then the superstar celebrity journalist has become an HIV-activist bar none, who has used his celebrity status to shine a light on a national audiences about what having HIV means today including Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U), to also encouraging everyone to get tested.
His ultimate cris-de-coeur to date is the beautifully moving segment on HIV and the Oscars that he produced for the awards show that he’s sharing with our audience.
Schmid not only fronted the package but also came out again as HIV-positive to possibly the largest audience in the world: seen nationwide on ABC and in over 35 countries around the world.
Towleroad spoke to Schmid from the red carpet.
TLRD: What was the impetus for the creation of this clip?
The Academy decided this year to include two nominees for the top acting prizes who portrayed characters living with HIV. Rami Malek is up for Best Actor and Richard E. Grant is a nominee for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me. With that in mind, I wanted to look back and see how the Academy has or has not included HIV in the awards in the past. The documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar back in 1990 and of course we all remember Tom Hanks winning Best Actor for his Performance in Philadelphia – which just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Since then there have been nominations for How To Survive A Plague for best documentary feature in 2012 as well as Yesterday which was up for Best Foreign Language Film in 2005. More recently both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto picked up the top acting prizes for their work in Dallas Buyers Club.
Whether or not you agree with the messaging these films represent, the fact that they focus and feature HIV characters and themes, putting them into the main stream means HIV is on our radar. It means people hear about it and talk about it. And as far as I’m concerned, the more we can talk about HIV the more we can “normalize” those three letters and a symbol – all of this is a win when it comes to tackling stigma.
Has your coming out with your status helped make these kind of segments more important?
I think so. Certainly for me it has. And how lucky am I to have the support of ABC, not just in my every day efforts, but on a platform as big as the Oscars red carpet pre-show?! ABC is the broadcast home of the Oscars, and these telecasts, starting from early on Sunday morning and continuing after the award show has finished, are flagship broadcasts for the network – seen by millions around the US and in something like 34 countries. For K-ABC in Los Angeles and the network to get behind me and support this important messaging is huge – not just for me personally, but for everyone here in the US and around the world who see our broadcast living with HIV. As I’ve said many times, the more we can talk about it, the more “normal” it becomes and thus the ridiculous and dangerous stigma HIV-positive people face slowly gets chiseled away.
I’m beyond grateful to ABC for giving us this platform, allowing us to highlight HIV and also to the Academy who continue to show love and support for films that include HIV.
Watch the clip below and read the full ABC article here.