Billy Porter Reveals His HIV Diagnosis: ‘I’m the Healthiest I’ve Been in My Entire Life’
Emmy-, Grammy-, and Tony-winning actor Billy Porter revealed that he has HIV in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Porter, who also has type 2 diabetes, was diagnosed with HIV 14 years ago during routine testing, he said in the interview. But the stigma and shame he felt about his diagnosis, especially as a Black man, kept him from making this detail of his life public sooner.
“I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew,” he said. “It would just be another way for people to discriminate against me in an already discriminatory profession. So I tried to think about it as little as I could. I tried to block it out.”
Porter writes that he’s been in therapy since he was 25, but it was during this last year in quarantine that he discovered, “There has never been a moment that I’ve not been in trauma.” That trauma helped fuel his work, he said, and it brought him to his role on Pose, in which he plays a character who is HIV-positive. This gave him “an opportunity to work through the shame [of HIV].”
Now Porter and his husband, whom he married in 2017, are looking to start a family. “Now it’s not just me,” he said. “It’s time to grow up and move on because shame is destructive—and if not dealt with, it can destroy everything in its path.”
There’s no cure for HIV, but with the consistent use of antiretroviral medications, people can manage the condition very effectively. This type of therapy, which comes as a daily oral medication and a new longer-lasting injectable version, can suppress the virus in the body—even to an undetectable level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains. At that level, there’s essentially no risk for spreading HIV to a partner, the CDC says.
“I go to the doctor now—as a Black, 51-year-old man, I go to the doctor every three months,” Porter said. “I know what’s going on in my body. 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.”
At one point in his life, Porter felt ashamed that his diagnosis made him a statistic. But now he’s come to terms with it. “Yes, I am the statistic, but I’ve transcended it,” he said. “This is what HIV-positive looks like now. I’m going to die from something else before I die from that.”
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