‘Project Runway’s’ Mondo Guerra’s Exclusive Chat With Socialite Life About His HIV Campaign, I Design

When it comes to bold styling and design choices, Project Runway’s All-Star winner Mondo Guerra sets the bar high. Since disclosing his status of being HIV-positive on season 8 of Project Runway, the up-beat fashion designer has become an advocate for HIV awareness and has shared his experiences with many people across the country. This summer, Mondo has partnered up with Merck, a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well, in creating a national HIV educational campaign called I Design. As an educational HIV campaign, I Design strives to empower HIV patients to have open and meaningful discussions with their doctors, helping them “tailor” their treatment plans. Mondo Guerra and Merck strongly encourage all people to check out this campaign, as it will provide strength and comfort for those opening up to their doctors.

Check our exclusive interview with Mondo Guerra as he talks about his upcoming projects, the campaign I Design, and how you can help spread awareness. 

In conclusion of winning Project Runway All-Stars, when will we be seeing some of your designs with Nieman Marcus and your editorial spread with Marie Claire?
We are going to be seeing some of the stuff with Nieman Marcus launching in late fall and the editorial position will kind of coincide with what s happening with Nieman Marcus. I’m really just trying to make it a moment and it makes more sense for me. I’ve also collaborated with c-eyewear and I’ve designed an eyewear collection that will be in stores in April 2013.

How was it working with casting for Project Runway season 10 and what were some valuable things you learned from that experience?
Well it made me realize that everyone has a dream and everybody is capable of creating and sharing ideas, I mean some of them weren’t as good as the others and some executions were really bad. But I recognized it as children’s art in some way. It was just really exciting and humbled me and made me realize that I had to go through so much to be on that show.

So in launching this new empowerment campaign, what are some benefits with I Design?
I Design is a program to empower people living with HIV to take a tailored approach to managing their disease. As we know, everyone is very different, so their treatment plan should reflect that. I know from personal experience that the number one way to be proactive in managing the disease is to have an open communication with your doctor and be prepared. Its very important to go into the doctor’s office and be prepared if you want to talk about CD4 counts, viral load, any possible side effects from your current treatments. Another thing to remember is that these treatments are allowing people to live longer, happier lives, so its important not to forget about any other health concerns like cholesterol. I know when you’re so focused on HIV, it can be very easy to push those other health concerns under the rug, so it all boils down to having that open conversation with your doctor.

So the overall message of I Design is to have open conversations with doctors, why is this so important?
Well personally from my experience, I felt very lonely and scared. I had a lot of regret and had all these negative approaches to manage my disease. So I think it’s important to find that doctor that you can depend on and really trust. I think you kind of have to shop around for that doctor because it’s really important to have that relationship. I don’t just go into the doctor’s office and we don’t just go down the statistics of my health. We also talk about my mental and nutritional health because that’s the full picture.

Are there any steps or advice you have about opening up to your doctors?
I don’t think there’s any proper way to approach a doctor, but I will say you don’t have to feel intimidated. I would encourage any patient to ask any questions that they have because there is so much power they have over their needs health wise. It is really important to ask a lot of questions because the doctors are really there to help you.

What were some of your ideas behind this campaign?
With I Design I wanted to make it very interactive. I thought it was very appropriate to have very easy messages. It’s not like a clinical pamphlet that you pick up at the doctor’s office and its black and white text, its really interactive. Users can design a textile, upload it, and share it with the rest of the people who visited the website. I encourage everyone to visit the website because they might be affected by the disease at some capacity, whether it’s someone they know or don’t know. Whatever it is, I think it’s important for everybody to digest this information and pass it on.

What do you want most out of this campaign?
The most important thing to me really is having a sense of human communication and conversation. I think there is a lot of power behind the conversations we have about HIV and also behind the conversations with our doctors. I just really hope that people continue to talk about it because that’s going to establish more strength to the future and behind HIV.

To design a digital textile illustrating your approach to managing HIV and to learn more about the campaign, please visit www.projectidesign.com.