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This HIV Activist Is Saving Lives with Monsters

He Hearts Monsters

Amazing Race star and HIV activist Andrew Shayde takes on Trump’s America.

Two years afterAndrew Shayde appeared on The Amazing Race, he became an HIV activist. After a young friend’s death from AIDS complications galvanized him to become involved, Shayde began focusing on HIV-prevention education and testing. Seven years later, the emotional toll of the work had worn him down.

“Giving positive [HIV test] results, while harder on the recipient, also caught up with me, and my own burnout began,” he says. “Luckily, I was asked to move into development planning for all of the fundraising events for Cascade AIDS Project. So, over the last six or so years, I’ve worked with a tiny team, raising over six million bucks through our annual events, like an art auction; a queer softball tournament, Bat ‘n Rouge; and AIDS Walk Portland.”


Andrew Shayde

At Cascade AIDS Project, Shayde has watched HIV funding decrease over the years. “Federal funds have fairly flatlined and the public seems to think AIDS is gone. It’s so frustrating, I’ve wanted to throw red ribbons at people’s faces.”

Opening a competent health care clinic for the LGBT community made sense, and still “connected with HIV in a strong way.” So, following similar moves by AIDS organizations in other states, CAP decided to expand its mission.  “We worked at CAP to open Prism, an LGBTQ-plus health center. Folks can see a doc that ‘gets it,’ whether it’s [for] hormone therapy, strep throat, or an STI scan.” Shayde points out that, “I have seen a friend’s medical record from a standard physician’s office that read ‘homosexual’ under the label ‘chronic conditions.’ Some smart doctors are very stupid.”

Now, Shayde is breaking into the world of comics, with the Monsters Among Us series about legendary beasts like Bigfoot, chupacabra, and Mothman. He sees the comic books as a way to tell “real life stories” about fictional characters. Writing for HIV-positive comic book publisher Darren Davis — who penned Lost Raven, one of the first comic books with an HIV-positive protagonist — at Tidal Wave Productions, he admits, “is a freaking blessing because I’m not chained up to write comics that appeal to 4-year-olds. I hit heavier themes.”

Indeed, Shayde builds references to the current political environment into his stories. “Monsters Among Us is such a clear [allegory] of these alt-right, KKK, Nazi-esque psychopaths literally hunting down anyone they deem unworthy. You could read it and simply say ‘Bigfoot Lives Matter,’ but know that as a writer I am very much slapping you in the face that it is Black Lives Matter. My characters represent minorities just trying to survive.”

Shayde pauses, adding, “I love writing, I get to play make-believe as an adult. But I’m also currently a pissed off American. And as sure as fuck, you’re going to see it in my writing.”

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