Last fall, legendary HIV-positive Styx bassist Chuck Panozzo got real about living with shame and HIV — and publicly urged friends, family, and fans to join him in supporting the education and stigma-busting work of the World AIDS Museum and Educational Center (WorldAIDSMuseum.org).
“I have lived with the struggle of being gay with HIV for quite some time,” the 69-year-old rocker wrote in a public statement. “I was ashamed and stigmatized by my secrets. It’s difficult enough to be different and even more challenging to live with big secrets. I have finally learned to enjoy my differences. Through the years, I struggled with my feelings about my diagnosis and found that the stigma of being HIV-positive was actually worse than having the disease itself.”
Calling those feelings “crippling,” Panozzo wrote that, during a trip to the World AIDS Museum, he finally “confronted my fear and found a tremendous freedom in doing so. Along with this came a learning experience, and I became more aware of who I am and what I can do to change my feelings.”
Located in Wilton Manors, Fla., the museum isn’t just for locals and tourists; it also offers Skype tours for those who can’t make it to South Florida. Panozzo was “so moved by the museum’s mission” on his visit that he decided to publicize its work, and call on Styx fans to join him in supporting it.
“My story is shared by so many others,” Panozzo said. “With 80 million infected people in the world, I wondered how could there be only one AIDS museum? The only answer is stigma. Every time I tell my story, I become a little freer, and a little more comfortable in my own skin. The isolation of stigma is life-threatening. The light of education is life-saving.”
Panozzo asked fans, “If you’ve been touched by my story or know anyone who is going through the same thing, please donate $10, $20, or any amount you choose to the museum today. I cannot stress enough how important this organization is to the world.”