Billy Porter is breaking his silence.
Appearing on the new cover of The Hollywood Reporter, the 51-year-old “Pose” star reveals his HIV-positive diagnosis 14 years ago.
“For a long time, everybody who needed to know, knew — except for my mother. I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew. It would just be another way for people to discriminate against me.”
He explains, “I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was the statistic that everybody said I would be.”
Porter talks about his concern over the stigma that would follow him had he been open about the diagnosis.
“It wasn’t a fear that [my status] was going to come out or that somebody was going to expose me; it was just the shame that it had happened. As a Black person, particularly a Black man on this planet, you have to be perfect or you will get killed,” he says.
The actor explains that publicly revealing he is HIV-positive is part of his journey toward feeling even more free as a human being.
“The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me. I hope this frees me so that I can experience real, unadulterated joy, so that I can experience peace, so that I can experience intimacy, so that I can have sex without shame,” he says. “This is for me.”
Porter adds, “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. It’s time. I’ve been living it and being in the shame of it for long enough.”
The LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD responded to Porter’s revelation of his diagnosis.
“The tremendous levels of stigma facing people living with HIV today can only be broken by icons like Billy Porter showing the world that HIV is not at all a barrier to a healthy and successful life,” said DaShawn Usher, associate director, Communities of Color, GLAAD.
“People living with HIV today, when on effective treatment, lead long and healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV, plus medications like PrEP protect people who do not have HIV from contracting HIV, but these leaps in HIV prevention and treatment have largely been invisible in the news and entertainment industries,” the statement continued. “When the groundbreaking show Pose goes off air in a few weeks, there will be zero television characters living with HIV. That is truly unacceptable when 1.2 million Americans and about 38 million people globally are living with HIV. Billy’s powerful interview needs to be a wake-up call for media and the general public that it’s time to end the stigma that people living with HIV face and to educate each other about HIV prevention and treatment.”