By Rachel Savage
LONDON, May 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Award-winning Pose star Billy Porter announced he is HIV-positive on Wednesday, adding that he is healthy and unashamed of having a disease that has long been stigmatized.
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 LGBTQ+ 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.
(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)