Shawn and Gwenn: A Boy, a Girl, and a Virus
In 1987, Shawn Decker contracted HIV from a contaminated blood transfusion. He was seven years old, and his family was told to prepare for the worst. They never dreamed they would get to watch him grow up, go to college, and become an activist for HIV-positive youth.
At the age of 20, Shawn began writing a blog about his experiences dating with HIV. His writing took off and he soon became a regular contributor to POZ Magazine, an award-winning print and online publication for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Then, at age 23, Shawn met Gwenn Berringer, a graduate student at James Madison University and an AIDS activist in her own right. Brought together by their shared passions, the two hit it off immediately and soon began dating. Gwenn admits to being frightened when they first became intimate, but her feelings for Shawn were undeniable and love prevailed. The two got married and were encouraged by friends and family to share their story. When they began blogging about their relationship, their candid and humorous approach to discussing HIV/AIDS rocketed them into the international spotlight. Their story appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine and on MTV, BBC, and HBO.
Since 2000, they have toured the U.S. as educators, encouraging college students to know their HIV status and practice safer sex. For many young people with HIV, they have been a beacon of hope—a loving couple, thriving in spite of the virus. As Shawn likes to tell students, “Assuming someone’s HIV status is a far greater risk than engaging in safe sex with someone who’s already infected.”
Now in their 30s, Shawn is strong and healthy and Gwenn continues to test negative for HIV. To find out more about them, check out their website at http://www.ShawnAndGwenn.com