'Pose' star Billy Porter announces he is HIV-positive

by Rachel Savage | @rachelmsavage | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 19 May 2021 17:05 GMT

Billy Porter poses on the red carpet during the Oscars arrivals at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Image Caption and Rights Information

Emmy-winning actor and 'Pose' star Billy Porter said he was healthy and moving on from the shame of his HIV diagnosis

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, May 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Award-winning "Pose" star Billy Porter announced he was HIV-positive on Wednesday, adding that he was healthy and unashamed of having a disease that has long been stigmatised.

Porter, who won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for portraying HIV-positive ballroom emcee Pray Tell in the hit TV show about New York's LGBT+ drag ball culture, said he contracted the infection in 2007, but felt free once he told his mother.

"I'm the healthiest I've been in my entire life. So it's time to let all that go and tell a different story. There's no more stigma — let's be done with that," Porter, 51, told The Hollywood Reporter.

"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."

While the virus caused great fear in the 1980s as there was no cure, it is now a treatable condition.

Two-thirds of some 38 million people living with HIV in 2019 take anti-retroviral drugs, which prevent them passing on the virus and stop it from developing into AIDS, according to the United Nations.

Infection rates have plummeted among gay and bisexual men in some countries following the introduction of the daily pill pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is at least 99% effective at preventing those who take it from contracting HIV.

Activists say that celebrity disclosures can help to tackle the stigma of HIV, with a growing number of well-known figures going public about their status.

Former Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas and Jonathan van Ness, star of Netflix makeover show "Queer Eye", said in 2019 that they were living with HIV.

Related stories:

Bittersweet moment at final season premiere of TV show 'Pose'

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for people living with HIV?

'I see myself' - Stars of 'Equal' Samira Wiley, Billy Porter on LGBT history

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.