Billy Porter reveals he’s been living with HIV for 14 years

·2-min read
Photo credit: Frazer Harrison - Getty Images
Photo credit: Frazer Harrison - Getty Images

Billy Porter has revealed that he has been living with HIV "in silence" for the past 14 years.

This is the first time that the star has talked about his illness since his diagnosis back in 2007.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Porter explained what it means to him to play an HIV-positive character on the television show Pose.

"Well, I’m living so that I can tell the story," he said. "There’s a whole generation that was here, and I stand on their shoulders."

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"The shame of that time compounded with the shame that had already [accumulated] in my life silenced me, and I have lived with that shame in silence for 14 years," he said, explaining that he was diagnosed during a difficult time in his life - simultaneously finding out he had type 2 diabetes and having to sign bankruptcy papers.

“HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment.”

Photo credit: Frazer Harrison - Getty Images
Photo credit: Frazer Harrison - Getty Images

Feeling shame and embarrassment, Porter kept his diagnosis a secret from many people including his own mother.

"I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew," explained Porter. "It would just be another way for people to discriminate against me in an already discriminatory profession."

After a year spent reflecting during the pandemic, and playing the character Pray Tell in Pose who struggled with his own HIV-positive diagnosis, Porter decided it was time to tell his own story.

He described the role as "an opportunity to work through the shame [of HIV] and where I have gotten to in this moment. And the brilliance of Pray Tell and this opportunity was that I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate."

After telling his mother, she replied: "You've been carrying this around for 14 years? Don't ever do this again. I'm your mother, I love you no matter what. And I know I didn't understand how to do that early on, but it's been decades now."

Porter married his husband Adam Smith three years ago and now they are trying to start their own family.

"I'm the healthiest I've been in my entire life," Porter said. "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."

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