Joining such notable crusaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS as Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Elton John, “The Berlin Patient” Timothy Brown and President Barack Obama, our own Mark Zatyrka has been named to Poz Magazine’s prestigious Poz 100 list. Published in each December issue, Poz 100 lists the top advocates, physicians, social workers, organizations and fundraisers in the worldwide fight against HIV/AIDS. We could not possibly be more proud of Mark, or more grateful for his tireless support!
Watch Poz.com and AFWM’s social media for the upcoming article about Mark’s amazing work, and read his nomination letter below:
“Mark contracted HIV as a young child through tainted medication to treat hemophilia. He lived in secrecy for most of his childhood, even keeping his diagnosis hidden from his own grandmother. However, in early adolescence, he started traveling the country with Camp Heartland to share his story outside of his home area in order to educate people about HIV and he has never stopped courageously speaking publicly for various organizations. When he went to college, he decided to disclose his status to his new friends and he was unconditionally embraced by everyone, many of whom are his best friends to this day, which finally started to convince him that he was lovable despite HIV and worthy to be loved. He gradually disclosed to family and friends over the years to ultimately live completely public about his HIV status. In 2007, he connected with the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts (AFWM) for the first time even though it was mere miles from where he grew up. He was struck that he lived in such secrecy his whole childhood and there was an organization right there the whole time. He felt motivated to help AFWM to ensure no one else felt alone like he did when there was so much being done for (and in solidarity with) people living with HIV right in his backyard. In 2008, he took on the role to Chair the fledgling AIDS Walk which was to take place only a few weeks before his own wedding. As he gracefully balanced planning both big events, he impressively grew the AIDS Walk to ultimately raise an impressive record breaking $61,528 with a skyrocket in attendance as well. He brought a vibrancy to an event that had been fading in recent years. He invigorated the community to again see the importance of the AIDS Walk as an invaluable way to raise awareness and visibility to HIV-AIDS in a time when society was ready to forget it. He did it all while no stanly putting himself and the details of his personal story out there in hopes to motivate and inspire and give hope. He chaired the AIDS Walk for two more years and remains on the committee in various capacities ever since. He also joined the Board of Trustees of the AIDS Foundation of Western MA soon after meeting them in 2007. Similar to his impact on the AIDS Walk, he brought new life to the Board and many see him as the cause of a positive turning point for the organization as a whole. He has remained one of the most active members of the Board and cannot turn down any request to take on important tasks that have propelled the organization forward. Most notably, he persistently pushed for the Board to recognize the Foundation’s obligation to educate the community and not only provide financial assistance grants to people living with HIV. Mark of course enabled many educational efforts that the Foundation eventually began to take on by always agreeing to publicly share his story as part of the education, becoming their poster boy for a time and ultimately inspiring a few other HIV+ community members to begin to join the ranks with him to also bravely share their stories. In 2009, he and three others co-founded the AIDS kNOw More Project which is a group for area students who want to learn about HIV and in turn educate the community. The group has grown over the years to be a strong program of the Foundation and it has an incredible presence in the community at large. All of the students are always hugely moved by Mark’s life and forge strong bonds with him as they evolve into staunch AIDS activists. Mark continues to be strongly committed to the AIDS Foundation of Western MA while also serving on several other Boards of local and national non-profits, being co-owner of a specialty pharmacy for people with bleeding disorders like hemophilia, and being a dedicated volunteer with many organizations. Personally, his ever-inspiring life gave him another dream come true this year when he became a father of now 6 month old twin girls Elliana and Colby after he and his wife went through the process of sperm washing. He is excited to now raise two budding volunteers as committed as he is to helping the world be a better place.”