In this week's episode of Ru Paul's Drag Race UK, Charity Kase (who uses she/her pronouns in drag and he/him when off-stage as Harry Whitfield) opened up to his fellow contestants, and the viewers at home, about his diagnosis with HIV. Afterwards, the season three star took to Instagram to share a powerful message about his experience, and to highlight how society's attitude towards the virus needs to change.
In a post shared with his 205k Instagram followers Harry said: "Living with HIV doesn't hold me back. The stigma is worse than the virus."
He continued, "I wanted to open up on this platform to hopefully educate and help some people watching. The best way to combat stigma is through education."
Speaking about how this stigma can be challenged, the performer also pointed out the importance of government action – particularly when it comes to ensuring that by the end of the decade, there are no new HIV cases.
"We have got the chance now to end new HIV cases in the UK by 2030 and that is incredible," he said, "But to make that happen the Government and more specifically the Chancellor have to follow though on their commitment and put their money where their mouth is in the spending review this month."
To help achieve this, the season three star encouraged fans to write to the Chancellor, and signposted followers to seek out more information about HIV from the UK's leading HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust.
On their own Instagram, Terrence Higgins Trust said they were thrilled that Harry had used his platform on Drag Race to "educate people on the reality of HIV today."
The Trust emphasised how, with effective treatment, people diagnosed with HIV can avoid passing the virus on, and can expect to live as long as anyone else – which they point out is something only 19% of the British public are aware of.
"Conversations like these are so important in challenging attitudes towards HIV that are stuck in the 1980s and showing there is no place for discrimination in 2021," the Trust continued, "By learning about the virus, you can help end HIV stigma."
Charity is not the first queen on Ru Paul's Drag Race to be open about their HIV status. Trinity K Bonet, who appeared on season six of the show, and again on All Stars season six, shared her experience of being HIV positive, as did season one queen, Ongina, who returned to the competition for All Stars season five.
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