March 31, 2008 12:00 PM

Todd Murray, 26

Founder, Hope’s Voice

Growing up as a gay teen in Salem, Ore., the only HIV-positive person Todd Murray had heard of was Pedro Zamora of MTV’s 1994 reality show The Real World. “HIV was a far-off risk,” says Murray. That is, until 2002, when a friend worried that he might have contracted the deadly virus. Murray, then 20, encouraged him to take an HIV test and offered to get tested too. Ironically, the friend’s results came back clean, but Murray tested positive. “It was the furthest thing from my mind,” he says.

To help others learn from his example, Murray launched Hope’s Voice ( to promote HIV awareness among men and women under 25—who account for half of all new infections worldwide. Since 2005 the former legal assistant has recruited and trained dozens of HIV-positive young people to speak at 220 colleges. This spring the nonprofit, which operates on a $350,000 budget from grants and donations, will expand to seven countries. The group’s work “reduces the stigma” of HIV, says Ted Karpf of the World Health Organization.

Murray’s speech hit home with University of Miami students in April. Says one senior: “The audience was captivated. Here was this normal guy, and he had HIV. This could happen to any of us.”

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