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Shawn Decker’s life was shaped by medical adversity from day one. Despite being born with mild hemophilia, he enjoyed a pretty normal childhood that included baseball and neighborhood games of football with friends. Infected with HIV through the use of tainted blood products, Shawn was expelled from public school just after his HIV diagnosis at age 11. (He was eventually readmitted.)
For the next ten years, Shawn kept his HIV status to himself, barely talking to his parents or doctors and never mentioning his pet virus by name. In 1996, at age 20, a change of heart led to the creation of “My Pet Virus”, a web site devoted to Shawn’s favorite pastimes as well as a sounding board for his feeling about living with HIV. His humorous and informative take on life with HIV caught the eye of POZ Magazine, and Shawn was featured on the cover of the January 97 issue before being invited to write a column for the magazine.
At age 23, he met a fellow HIV educator, Gwenn Barringer- who is HIV negative. After they fell in love, friends encouraged them to speak together as a couple, and in 2000 they joined CAMPUSPEAK, a speaker’s bureau specializing in health issues. Since 2000, Shawn and Gwenn have spoken to over 50,000 students on colleges campuses, traveling nationally to share how they keep Gwenn HIV negative in their program, “A Boy, A Girl, A Virus & The Relationship That Happened Anyway.” In 2004, Shawn and Gwenn were married.
Together they’ve been featured on MTV, the BBC, CNN.com and have appeared in an HBO documentary as well as in Cosmopolitan. My Pet Virus is Shawn’s first book.
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