Chuck Panozzo, founding bassist for STYX, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1991 and developed full-blown AIDS in 1998, has urged his fans to support the World AIDS Museum And Educational Center in Florida.
The mission of the World AIDS Museum and Educational Center is to increase awareness and decrease stigma of the AIDS epidemic by documenting the history of HIV/AIDS, remembering the people who suffered from this disease, educating people about HIV/AIDS, enlightening the world to this continuing tragedy and empowering the survivors.
In a "special message" to his "family, friends, and followers," Panozzo wrote: "I am a gay man and a survivor of HIV.
"I have lived with the struggle of being gay with HIV for quite some time. 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. I've wanted to release myself of this feeling for so long. It became crippling.
"I recently learned something while visiting the World AIDS Museum And Educational Center in Wilton Manors, Florida. With this came a confrontation. I 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.
"I was so moved by the Museum's mission that I have been able to experience a much greater personal power.
"I want to share my experience with you, so please watch the video which is part of this communication.
"WAM's mission is to increase awareness and decrease the stigma of HIV/AIDS by documenting, remembering, educating, enlightening and empowering.
"I walked through this beautiful museum which tells the story of HIV and AIDS throughout the world and addresses the stigma that makes it so difficult for people to confront this disease. I realized that my story is shared by so many others. 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. I want everyone who is confronted, either infected or affected by HIV, to have that opportunity to grow from the challenge.
"The isolation of stigma is life-threatening. The light of education is life-saving. The fellowship of friends and family is health-giving. What the band has taught me psychologically is that I need to go out and be with my band as they continue their legacy in the rock 'n' roll world. How could that not help me in my growth process? I have a band that is willing to make sure that I stay healthy.
"I want you to know that this is something I don't normally do.
"The World AIDS Museum and Educational Center helps to enlighten survivors and eliminate the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. Because this is such a life-changing place, I need to reach out to you and ask that you do two things.
"If you've been touched by my story or know anyone who is going through the same thing, please donate $10.00, $20.00 or any amount you choose to the Museum today. I cannot stress enough how important this organization is to the world.
"Please DONATE to make your donation of $10.00, $20.00, or any amount you choose.
"Thank you for allowing me to share my personal story and taking the time to learn about the importance of The World AIDS Museum and Educational Center. I promise that your donation will make a difference in many lives."