10 inspiring queer celebrities who told the world how to thrive with HIV

Billy Porter
Billy Porter (Photo: Shutterstock)

Billy Porter

Actor and singer Billy Porter, 52, revealed to the world that he lives with HIV in 2021. He was diagnosed 14 years earlier.

Porter told The Hollywood Reporter that he plays the Pray Tell character in pose, who also has HIV, has allowed him to overcome some of the initial shame he felt about contracting the virus. He said talking about his status helped that trip.

“Truth is healing,” she said. “I was the generation that should have known better, and it happened anyway,” Porter told THR. “It was 2007, the worst year of my life. I’ve been on the verge of obscurity for about a decade or so, but 2007 was the worst. I had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in February. I signed the bankruptcy papers in March. And in June I was diagnosed with HIV.

If that year was an all-time nadir, life has continued to improve for Porter ever since. He has found success through posereleased music, recently appeared in the film Cinderella, and is making his directorial debut. He will soon appear opposite Luke Evans in a same-sex relationship divorce drama. In real life, he also fell in love and got married.

Related: Ryan Murphy pays beautiful tribute to Billy Porter after revealing HIV status

Jonathan Vanness

Strange eyeJonathan Van Ness, 35, revealed he was HIV positive in 2019 in his memoir, Exaggerated. They were diagnosed in 2012. At the time, they were working at a hair salon and using drugs heavily (Van Ness has checked into rehab twice and has since cleaned the act out of him).

“That day was as devastating as you’d think it would be,” they wrote.

In 2020, Van Ness gave an interview to Self about the decision to speak about his status.

“There’s a younger part of me that was afraid that if I came out with my status and talked about it, that that would be the one aspect of me that people would want to talk about or think about or acknowledge,” they said. said. However, she has come to the understanding that “if this is the only aspect people are going to see me for, it’s on them, not me.”

Related: Jonathan Van Ness on HIV stigma: ‘Rejection sucks’

Oliver Sim

Oliver Sim, 32, is a founding member of British band The xx. Earlier this year, he released his first solo album, Horrible Bastard. It was preceded by the video “Hideous”.

The song addresses being HIV positive and the stigma around the virus, directly questioning why this should make it “horrible” in some people’s eyes. The song and video also featured ex-Bronski Beat lead singer Jimmy Somerville.

In a statement about the album, Sim said the collection deals with feelings of fear and shame.

“I have been living with HIV since I was 17 and it plays out on how I have felt about myself and how I assume others have felt about me, from that age and into my adult life.

Greg Louganis

Louganis, 62, is an American diver who won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics. He tested positive for HIV six months before the 1988 Seoul Olympics. His doctor lent him the then-experimental HIV drug, AZT, which at first he religiously took every four hours (a regimen no longer required).

Louganis believes she contracted HIV from her manager, R. James “Jim” Babbitt, with whom she was in an abusive relationship throughout much of the 1980s. The two broke up and Louganis subsequently issued a restraining order against her. Babbit died of AIDS in 1990.

Louganis publicly came out as gay in 1994. He revealed his HIV status in 1995 in an interview with Barbara Walters. He also mentioned it that year in his memoir of hers, Break the surface.

Trinity K. Bone’t

Trinity K. Bone’t (aka Joshua Jamal Jones), 31, is an ex RuPaul’s Drag Race competitor. She found out she was HIV positive in 2012 when she attended a dance. Participants could save $30 off the ticket price if they agreed to be tested at the scene.

“Later during the dance, the guy pulled me back, and he was like, ‘I just want to tell you that you were positive. I was like, ‘OK.’ He was like, ‘Are you okay?’ I said, “Yes, I feel good.” And the same situation with my mother. Everybody says, ‘Are you okay?’ I was like, ‘I said I’m fine, damn it!’”

He revealed his status while appearing on the sixth season of Drag Race in 2014.

“The thing about me when it comes to sex is my particular community. It’s very taboo when it comes to being open and honest about their status,” she said. “Being an openly HIV-positive person, I was a secret to many people for a long time. But I’m nobody’s secret. I’m successful, got my shit together, I’m good in bed. I’m taking care of myself, I’m undetectable, which is untransmittable.

Other Drag Race queens have also revealed their HIV positive status, including Ongina And Charity fund (from Drag race in the UK).

Andy Bell

Andy Bell of Cancellation
Andy Bell of Erasure (Photo: Shutterstock)

Bell, 58, is the lead singer of synth-pop duo Erasure. He has been gay since Erasure started having hits in the late 80s. The band is best known in the US for their song “A Little Respect” (later covered by Wheatus).

Bell revealed in 2004 that he had been living with HIV since 1998.

In an interview earlier this year with The Guardian he talked about Erasure’s glory years (they’ve enjoyed over a dozen top ten hits in their home country), a ten-year cocaine addiction, living with HIV and now taking care of himself through 12-step recovery and reiki.

“I’m not a saint or anything; your life doesn’t change overnight,” he told her. “But I felt so grateful to still be alive. The network is surprising for people with HIV, and the stigma is greatly reduced. I think you eventually forget about it, especially when it becomes undetectable.

Andre De Shields

Andre De Shields has been living with HIV for about 30 years
Andre De Shields (Photo: Shutterstock)

André De Shields, 76, is a Broadway legend. Actor, singer, dancer, director and choreographer, won a Tony Award in 2019 for his role as Hermes in the original Broadway production of Hadestown. Viewers might also recognize him from his recent role on the Netflix show, Decoupled. He played a neighbor of Neil Patrick Harris’ main character.

De Shields spoke about his status to The Body in 2020. His life partner and mentor, Chico Kasinoir, died of AIDS-related complications in 1992. De Shields lived with the virus for approximately 30 years.

“If you consider contracting the human immunodeficiency virus to be a problem, this is what I suggest: Invite the problem to sit down for a cup of tea and ask:“ Why are you here? Be patient, as the answer will reveal itself. And as the answer is revealed, and as long as you are patient, you will achieve radiant health despite HIV.

“I want this to be as clear as possible. Once the psychopomp understands that the individual he is visiting is not seeking a higher love, then there is nothing to glean. Then we’ll have tea and then you’ll go.

Holly Johnson

Johnson, 62, was the lead singer of British band Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The group had a worldwide hit in 1984 with “Relax”. The band had a string of further hits in their home country and Johnson also released a couple of successful solo albums.

Johnson, who announces from Liverpool, was one of the first gay men in pop. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1991. At the time, he didn’t think he would live long and wrote a memoir, A bone in my flute. However, with the arrival of effective antiretroviral treatment in the mid-1990s, Johnson continued to thrive. He still performs live and has also developed a sideline as a painter.

He told the Guardian in 2014 that he lives a very health-conscious lifestyle: ‘I’m so lucky in so many ways. Many beautiful friends who were my extended gay family are gone. So I kind of live for them too.

Myki Blanco

Blanco, 36, is a singer, rapper, activist and performer. In 2015, during Pride season, they revealed on Facebook that they have been living with HIV since 2011.

“I have been HIV positive since 2011, my entire career. Fuck the stigma and hide in the dark, this is my real life. I’m in good health, I’ve been around the world 3 times but I’ve lived in obscurity, it’s time I really was as punk as I say I am. No more living a lie. HAPPY PRIDE.”

Blanco was hesitant to share the information because they feared it would hurt their careers. However, they told Plus magazine: “I did it for myself. At some point, my real life has to be more important than this career.”

Their Facebook post received a flood of messages of support, and Blanco’s fear that the news would harm their careers proved unfounded. They went on to collaborate with the likes of Kanye West and Madonna. Their latest album, Stay close to the musicit came out in October 2022.

John Grant

John Grant, 54, has garnered press attention as lead singer with alt-rock band The Czars. The band split up in 2006 and Grant continued to achieve greater commercial success as a solo artist, with his breakthrough album being his second offering of 2013, Pale green ghosts.

In 2012, he revealed on stage that he had been diagnosed with HIV the year before. He explored some of his feelings about it in the song “Ernest Borgnine”.

“I was messing with my life and indulging in destructive behavior and ended up contracting a disease that could have been totally prevented. When I look at the fact that there are millions of children in Africa with HIV who have never had a choice, I need to understand why I let it happen to myself. That song (“Ernest Borgnine”) says all those things.

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