Billy Porter Opens Up About Living With HIV


Emmy award-winning actor Billy Porter recently opened up about living with HIV, after being diagnosed over 14 years ago. Porter shared his story with The Hollywood Reporter, revealing that he told almost no one about his HIV-positive diagnosis, due to shame and stigma. In the hit series, Pose, Porter told the outlet that he was able to say everything that I wanted to say through surrogate" in his HIV-positive character Pray Tell, adding that no one on the show with him knew that he lives with HIV. 

Porter shared that he felt that sharing his story was important because “the truth is healing.” 

“I was the generation that was supposed to know better, and it happened anyway,” Porter said. “It was 2007, the worst year of my life… By February, I had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By March, I signed bankruptcy papers. And by June, I was diagnosed HIV-positive. The shame of that time compounded with the shame that had already [accumulated] in my life silenced me, and I lived with that shame in silence for 14 years,” the Broadway-trained actor said. 

“HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment,” Porter added. After being diagnosed, the actor said he told “everybody who needed to know” but that he initially kept the diagnosis from many people, including his mother out of fear of discrimination. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Porter shared that he got an opportunity to do some reflection while in a rental house in Long Island he shared with his husband due to his health risk. “I’d never even been given the luxury to even think about self-care or balance on any level before. It’s like I had to just keep going. COVID created a safe space for me to stop and reflect and deal with the trauma in my life,” Porter said.“I started peeling back all these layers...There has never been a moment that I’ve never been in trauma, which is what I discovered this last year.” 

Porter shared that it was shame that caused a “feeling of dread” for him, but that sharing his story supports his healing. “This is what HIV-positive looks like now…. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in my entire life,” he added. 

The Tony Award-winner also made it clear that his status is “not the only thing I am. 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.” 

After telling his mother about his status, the actor was inspired to share with his Pose cast mates and crew members. “We’ve gone through this whole thing together and these people deserve to know, just like my mama deserved to know,” Porter said.

“The truth is healing,” he added later. Sharing his story, he said, “is for me.” “I’m doing this for me. I have too much s–– to do, and I don’t have any fear about it anymore…. I don’t care what anyone has to say. You’re either with me or simply move out of the way,” he concluded. 

Photo: Getty Images


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