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“This is what HIV-positive looks like now”: A healthy, happy Billy Porter reveals his diagnosis after 14 years

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ABC

Pose star Billy Porter has already blazed a trail in Hollywood as an out and proud gay man, but now he’s doing it again, by declaring he’s been HIV+ for 14 years. 

In an intimate interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Emmy, Tony and Grammy winner details the trauma he’s experienced in his life, from sexual abuse at the hands of his stepfather when Porter was a child, through his diagnosis in 2007, which he says came during “the worst year of my life.”

Porter explained, “I was on the precipice of obscurity for about a decade or so, but 2007 was the worst of it. By February, I had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By March, I signed bankruptcy papers. And by June, I was diagnosed HIV-positive.”

It was a diagnosis he hid from the industry, and even his own mother — the latter, until just recently. “[She] had been through so much already, so much persecution by her religious community because of my queerness, that I just didn’t want her to have to live through their ‘I told you so’s’,” Porter says. “I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was the statistic that everybody said I would be. So I’d made a pact with myself that I would let her die before I told her.”

However, Porter explained the COVID-19 lockdown allowed him to examine his life, and stop using his trauma as a “forward motion.” From that reflection, he decided to call his mom. She was shocked — but not for the reason he expected. 

‘You’ve been carrying this around for 14 years?'” Billy recalled her chiding him. “‘Don’t ever do this again. I’m your mother, I love you no matter what.'”

Porter explained at that moment, “I feel my heart releasing. It had felt like a hand was holding my heart clenched for years — for years — and it’s all gone.”

Porter, who explains he’s at the healthiest he’s ever been in his life, triumphantly declares, “This is what HIV-positive looks like now.”

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