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Billy Porter Opens Up About Living With HIV

billy porter on the red carpet at the golden globe awards scaled

Pose actor Billy Porter has revealed he is HIV-positive.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the 51-year-old said: “There’s no more stigma — let’s be done with that. It’s time. I’ve been living it and being in the shame of it for long enough… I’m so much more than that diagnosis. And if you don’t want to work with me because of my status, you’re not worthy of me.”

This is the first time Porter has spoken about living with HIV since being diagnosed in 2007. He said he had been using his character in Pose, the emcee Pray Tell who is also HIV-positive, as a proxy: “I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate.”

Porter’s news is a huge step for the HIV-positive community, giving the virus greater visibility, while also helping to destigmatise it.

He’s not the only famous face who has opened up about living with HIV…

1. Jonathan Van Ness

Queer Eye’s resident style expert first spoke about being HIV-positive to The New York Times in 2019. The 34-year-old hair stylist was diagnosed when he was 25, and now describes himself as a “member of the beautiful HIV-positive community”.

He said: “When Queer Eye came out, it was really difficult, because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?’ And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the LGBT community thrive around me’. I do feel the need to talk about this.”

In February, Van Ness posted about getting the Covid-19 vaccination, urging anyone else with HIV to do the same.

2. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson

Widely considered one of the best basketball players in NBA history, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson discovered he had HIV in 1991.

In the same year, he established the Magic Johnson Foundation, primarily working to educate and assist communities of colour affected by HIV.

Johnson has worked tirelessly to expand our knowledge around HIV, dispelling ideas that it only affects gay people or drug users.

Reflecting on 25 years with HIV in 2016, CBS Los Angeles reported Johnson as writing in an essay: “November 7, 1991 was a life changing day that I never saw coming.

Up until then, I thought the hardest thing I’d ever done was play against Michael Jordan or Larry Bird, but on this day I began the fight of my life.

“I felt it was my duty to educate as many people as I could about the disease. Today, I continue to do everything I can to bring awareness and education about this disease to the community.”

3. Mykki Blanco

Mykki Blanco as an American genderqueer activist and musician. In 2015, they wrote on Facebook: “I’ve been HIV Positive since 2011, my entire career. F*** stigma and hiding in the dark, this is my real life. I’m healthy, I’ve toured the world three times, but I’ve been living in the dark, it’s time to actually be as punk as I say I am.”

The following year, Blanco told the Guardian: “I thought when I came out that was going to be the end. Mykki Blanco is fun. Talking about HIV is not fun. How could I be fun and have HIV?”

Thankfully, they were “surprised” at how positive and supportive the response was.

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