Styx Co-Founder Chuck Panozzo Wants To Educate People About HIV/AIDS

Chuck Panozzo is rocking out for a cause. Literally. The co-founder of the internationally acclaimed rock band Styx has joined the HIV/AIDS cause in a public awareness campaign as an advocate for GeoVax’s Labs. Celebrity Parents spoke exclusively with Chuck about World AIDS Day, cures, hope, and good music.

How did you become involved with GeoVax?

I was doing a benefit and I was approached by them. We started talking about AIDS research and they mentioned the vaccine. They were doing studies and the trials had been successful. I read up more about it, and found that they were doing great things. It’s a small company, but sometimes cures don’t come from big pharmaceuticals.

What stage is the vaccine in now?

Right now, GeoVax is in Phase 2a human trials. It will take time, but we’re getting there. If it goes globally, they could take it to Africa, where getting medication to people is very difficult. I’m very enthusiastic about this. HIV/AIDS medication is expensive, and while research doesn’t happen overnight, if everything goes well, we’ll see a gigantic wave of improvement.

You’ve been HIV positive for 20 years now.

I was diagnosed in 1991. In 1998, I became very sick, and I went from 170 lbs. to 130 lbs. When you get sick like that, you need a great doctor who supports you. Growing up gay, you play the shame game. But in medicine, it’s a medical issue, not a moral issue. There’s no judgment for people who have heart surgeries, so why should there be in treating someone with HIV? I regained my health, and in the past few years, I feel pretty great. The most important thing in my life is my health. I want to be around to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but until then, it’s still great to be a part of the band that I formed!

Yes, let’s talk about what’s new with Styx.

We’re taping a show with Improv-Ice, an improvisational ice dancing show. It’s very cool. Styx has rocked the Super Bowl twice, and this is a fun, new breakthrough. I’m very excited about it.

Today is World AIDS Day. What would you like for readers to know?

Globally, 28 million people have died from this disease. For me, it’s become a passion, to educate people about this. People will ask, “Why do you have to keep talking about it?” And I answer, “Well, why do you always have to teach kids how to read and write, and do mathematics?” Are you born smart, or are you smart enough to learn? As a former educator, I know that education, protection and be open with your children is key. Everyone who is sexually active should get an HIV test. 80,000 people in the United States are HIV positive, but are unaware of it. The spread of infection rate is incredible. That’s why you can’t be afraid of the stigma. Don’t let politicians or religion intimidate you.

My desire is to see this disease end in my lifetime. When the infection rate drops to zero, that will be a celebration. And it’s coming.

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