For the last 22 years, Jack Mackenroth has been living with HIV. Unless he told you his status, you would have no idea that he's been battling a deadly disease for half his life. Mackenroth says when he was diagnosed, his outlook was very different than it is now.
"Basically in '89 there was no meds. AZT was controversial at best and so all my friends were dying. I probably went to 50 plus funerals. I had a partner that died in 1994. So I figured that, I was 20 when I was diagnosed, I figured I would be dead by 25," said Mackenroth.
Today, Mackenroth is not only a survivor he also spends time promoting HIV/AIDS awareness. After appearing on season four of Project Runway on Bravo, others have reached out to him for advice. He says he receives about five messages a day from people wanting to know more about the disease.
"I've gotten letters from people that were going to kill themselves and didn't because they saw an article about me on Facebook or saw something about me," added Mackenroth. "Their first gut reaction is that they're unlovable and that they're damaged somehow. I think that's really important to fight the stigma. And say 'listen it's just a disease, it shouldn't be a judgement on you.' There's no blame or shame. I think it's hard for people to process."
Saturday, Mackenroth will host Careteam's 5K run and AIDS walk in Myrtle Beach at Plyler Park. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the event begins an hour later.
Mackenroth offers advice for everyone in the community, "You should assume that the other person is positive and take the precautions. Asking someone, people don't know, people lie to get what they want. So my advice is know your status, make sure you protect yourself regardless of the situation that you're in. If you are HIV positive, it's a hopeful time and there are great treatments out there so it's not a dead end."
Careteam is focused on educating the community about HIV/AIDS and providing treatment.