A former gay porn star turned academic is disappointed that the university where he studies declined permission for his planned World AIDS Day event.
Dr Ruggero Freddi is a math professor at Rome’s prestigious La Sapienza University.
In October, Italian press discovered Freddi was formerly a well-known porn star with the California-based Colt Studios. He used to perform under the name Carlo Masi.
He’s now put porn behind him and has returned to Italy to undertake a PhD. As part of this, he spends some of his time teaching other students in the engineering faculty.
Although the revelation of his former career has not impacted his studies, Freddi is disappointed a HIV awareness event he planned was shut down by university bosses.
World AIDS Day
He tells GSN that he had planned to hold discussions around HIV and AIDS with his engineering class. This would include a look at the current situation with regard to treatment and PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).
He had been planning the event for a month, ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday, and had the support of others in the university, including the head of the faculty of Pharmacy and Medicine. His own faculty, he says, had previously expressed support for the event.
‘The event was in collaboration with ANLAIDS, PLUS Onlus and the Faculty of Medicine but at the last second the Dean of the Faculty didn’t wanna give permission, despite the fact that at the beginning he told me he supported the event.’
Freddi says he heard from Faculty head, Professor Antonio D’Andrea that HIV was not an issue relevant for discussion by a math professor in an engineering class. It was suggested that the event would find a more ‘natural’ home in the Faculty of Medicine.
When students heard about the event being cancelled, a small group, Collettivo LGBT Prisma, staged a protest. They unfurled a banner at the university saying ‘Non creddere che l’HIV non ti riguardi’: Do not believe that HIV is not your concern.
Freddi posed in front of the banner and posted a photo to his Facebook.
‘When I told them that D’Andrea decided to cancel the event they were very upset,’ Freddi told GSN.
‘I just wanted to leave it and forget about the whole story but I couldn’t turn my back on a group of young and hopeful students so I decided I would have been there during the protest, where condoms where distributed inside the university.’
In a Facebook posting accompanying the photo, he lamented the decision, saying the faculty had ‘missed an important opportunity.’
Speaking to GSN, Freddi questioned the Faculty Dean’s reasoning for cancelling the event. He said: ‘HIV is a universal problem, informing and forming people should be done in any institution and always but especially in an important day such as the 1st of December.’
HIV in Italy
There are an estimated 130,000 people living with HIV in Italy according to UNAIDS, and around 7% of men who have sex with men have the virus.
Around 6.9 people per 100,000 live with the virus in Italy, slightly ahead of the EU average of 6.6 per 100,000.
PrEP is not currently legally available in the country.
Freddi says HIV awareness is something he cares passionately about, and not just because of his experiences in the porn industry.
‘I have lost friends to this disease way before I did porn and I have had HIV+ partners more than once in my life, so I have grown up pretty sensitive about this issue.’
GSN has approached La Sapienza for comment.