(L-R) Sean Sasser and Judd Winick, Real World star in...

(L-R) Sean Sasser and Judd Winick, Real World star in Season 3, photographed during the program as Winick wipes away tears. Credit: Rick Meyer

AIDS activist Sean Sasser, who helped bring a sympathetic awareness of the disease to many Americans when he appeared on MTV's "The Real World: San Francisco," has died at 44.

His husband, Michael Kaplan, posted on Facebook that Sasser, who was HIV-positive, died Wednesday of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. He later confirmed the news to CNN.

One "Real World" housemate, DC Comics writer Judd Winick, tweeted late Wednesday, "Our friend Sean Sasser has died. Our love goes out to his family & husband Michael. We will miss u so much."

Sasser, born Oct. 25, 1968, entered the public consciousness on the 1994 edition of the MTV reality series, in which several young people share a house. He was the boyfriend of cast member Pedro Zamora, one of the first openly gay men on American television, whose struggle with AIDS was chronicled on the show. Zamora died of AIDS-related causes Nov. 11, 1994, a day after the final episode aired. He and Sasser had exchanged commitment vows on that finale, a televised first.

Sasser, who remained active in AIDS awareness, later lived in Portland, Ore. He recently moved to Washington, D.C., where Kaplan had taken a job running the nonprofit organization AIDS United and Sasser found work as a pastry chef at the restaurant Ris. Kaplan told CNN the two had dated off and on for years since the 1990s, but moved in together about six years ago. Kaplan said his remains would be cremated.

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