‘The Truth Is Healing’: Billy Porter Reveals He Was Diagnosed With HIV 14 Years Ago
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Billy Porter is opening up about living and thriving with HIV.

Sharing his story in the newest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Porter revealed that he was diagnosed with it in 2007 during a time in his life that was already especially difficult. A pimple on his backside sent him to the clinic, and a routine HIV test, which he received every six months, changed his life.

“I was the generation that was supposed to know better, and it happened anyway,” he said. Feeling shame over the diagnosis and already holding on to shame from other experiences (abuse from his stepfather, his former church’s reaction to his sexuality) and looking to have a career in Hollywood without any judgments, Porter, who grew up and came out during the AIDS crisis, said he lived in silence about his diagnosis for 14 years — but no more.

“Having lived through the plague, my question was always, ‘Why was I spared? Why am I living?’ 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. I can be who I am in this space, at this time, because of the legacy that they left for me. So it’s time to put my big boy pants on and talk.”

Motivated by his time in quarantine, Porter wanted to open up about his experience so that he could move on and be free to experience unbridled joy. Many in his life didn’t know about his diagnosis, including his co-stars from Pose, where he plays Pray Tell, a character who, purely through coincidence, also has HIV, as well as his own mother.

“My mother 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.’ I didn’t want to put her through that,” he said. He thought he would hold onto the secret until after she passed, but realized he couldn’t hold out. He has since received support from her in sharing his diagnosis, from the Pose team, and will certainly receive a great deal of it from the industry as a whole. If he doesn’t, he’s unbothered.

“The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me. I hope this frees me so that I can experience real, unadulterated joy, so that I can experience peace, so that I can experience intimacy, so that I can have sex without shame. This is for me. I’m doing this for me,” he said. “I have too much sh-t to do, and I don’t have any fear about it anymore. I told my mother — that was the hurdle for me. I don’t care what anyone has to say. You’re either with me or simply move out of the way.”