Emmy/Grammy Winner Billy Porter Comes Out As HIV+

Grammy/Emmy/Tony Award winner Billy Porter
Grammy/Emmy/Tony Award winner Billy Porter
Grammy/Emmy/Tony Award winner Billy Porter (screen capture – THR)

After a deeply moving episode of the acclaimed FX series Pose on Sunday which drew in part from his own personal life story, Grammy/Emmy Award winner Billy Porter has come out as HIV+ today in a candid and revealing interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

I was the generation that was supposed to know better, and it happened anyway. It was 2007, the worst year of my life. 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. 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. HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment.

The 51-year-old actor also shares how Pose changed the equation for him:

Then came Pose. 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. My compartmentalizing and disassociation muscles are very, very strong, so I had no idea I was being traumatized or triggered. I was just happy that somebody was finally taking me seriously as an actor.

Porter had made a pact that he wouldn’t tell his mother because he felt she’d already gone through so much due to his ‘queerness.’ But on the last day of shooting his scenes for Pose, he had an epiphany.

Then I woke up on the last day of [shooting] Pose; I was writing in my gratitude journal and my mama popped into my head. I was like, “Let me just call her.” Not two minutes into the conversation, she’s like, “What’s wrong?” I said, “Nothing.” She’s like, “Son, please tell me what’s wrong.”

So I ripped the Band-Aid off and I told her. She said, “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.” And it’s all true. It’s my own shame. Years of trauma makes a human being skittish. But the truth shall set you free. 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.

While Pose may be coming to an end, the future is full of new adventures for Billy.

Every single solitary dream that I ever had is coming true in this moment, all at the same time. I’m getting ready to play the fairy godmother in Cinderella. I have new music coming out. I have a memoir coming out. Pose is out. I’m directing my first film. And I’m trying to be present. I’m trying to be joyful, and one of the effects of trauma is not being able to feel joy.

I celebrate Billy’s inspiring and uplifting journey to his truth, and his sharing it with us. Please read the full article (and watch the video interview) at The Hollywood Reporter.

DaShawn Usher, Associate Director – Communities of Color for GLAAD, issued a statement on Billy’s announcement:

“The tremendous levels of stigma facing people living with HIV today can only be broken by icons like Billy Porter showing the world that HIV is not at all a barrier to a healthy and successful life. People living with HIV today, when on effective treatment, lead long and healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV, plus medications like PrEP protect people who do not have HIV from contracting HIV, but these leaps in HIV prevention and treatment have largely been invisible in the news and entertainment industries.”

“When the groundbreaking show Pose goes off air in a few weeks, there will be zero television characters living with HIV. That is truly unacceptable when 1.2 million Americans and about 38 million people globally are living with HIV. Billy’s powerful interview needs to be a wake-up call for media and the general public that it’s time to end the stigma that people living with HIV face and to educate each other about HIV prevention and treatment.”

GLAAD and Gilead Sciences last year released a survey that measures American attitudes toward HIV/AIDS and people living with HIV.

Among those findings were only 55% of LGBTQ Americans and 51% of non-LGBTQ Americans report feeling knowledgeable about HIV.

Study: HIV+ More Likely To Be Hospitalized Due To COVID

(image via Depositphotos)

While not a big surprise, it appears folks living with HIV fare worse against COVID-19 than those without HIV.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published research this week showing a connection between people living with HIV and increased hospitalization and death rates among New York State residents.

The study found those already living with HIV experienced poorer COVID-related outcomes relative to persons living without diagnosed HIV.

A previous HIV diagnosis was associated with higher rates of severe disease requiring hospitalization, and hospitalization risk increased with progression of HIV disease stage.

A total of 2988 persons living with diagnosed HIV received a diagnosis of COVID-19.

Of these persons living with diagnosed HIV, 896 were hospitalized and 207 died in the hospital through June 15, 2020.

After standardization, persons living with diagnosed HIV and persons living without diagnosed HIV had similar diagnosis rates, but persons living with diagnosed HIV were hospitalized more than persons living without diagnosed HIV.

Lawsuit Alleges VA Docs Failed To Inform Veteran He Was HIV+ For 20 Years

A Navy veteran living in South Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration claiming he tested positive for HIV over 20 years ago and his doctors never informed him of the diagnosis.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court this week, alleges the medical staff at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA center in Columbia, South Carolina, failed to tell him an HIV test taken in 1995 came back positive. If true, the failure allowed the virus to progress for 20 years.

The veteran is referred to as “John Doe” in the filing to protect his medical privacy.

According to the local Columbia newspaper The State, the lawsuit reads, “The VA had actual knowledge beginning in November 1995 that Mr. Doe was HIV positive and the standard of care required he be informed of the positive test and proper treatment begin in 1995.”

“In clear contravention of the standard of care, Mr. Doe was not informed of the positive HIV test until decades later,” continues the filing.

The patient’s medical records reportedly mention his HIV diagnosis in subsequent visits but there’s no apparent record of the patient being informed he was HIV-positive.

‘Doe’ only learned of his status while seeing a non-VA physician who mentioned the diagnosis in passing during a December 2015 examination.

The doctor wrote in his notes, “I looked at the patient and ask (sic) him who was his infectious disease doctor, and patient states (he) did not have one and (I) ask (sic) him if he knew that his HIV test was positive, and he stated (he) never was told it was positive.”

According to reports, the veteran didn’t begin receiving antiretroviral treatment until he was admitted to a non-VA hospital in New York in 2018 at which point he had developed full-blown AIDS.

The lawsuit, which requests an unspecified amount for punitive damages, claims the man’s health and immune system are permanently affected.

“The treatment he’s getting now is effective, but he’s had essentially 25 years of wear and tear for having no treatment,” said his lawyer, Chad McGowan, told Navy Times.

“He feels extremely guilty about the girlfriends he’s had over the last 25 years because he didn’t know,” McGowan added.

Had ‘Doe’ had been informed of his status in a timely manner, McGowan says his client “would not have suffered the losses he has suffered, and will continue to suffer in the future, and more likely than not, he would not have developed AIDS.”

The medical director of the Dorn VA facility declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

News Round-Up: May 20, 2020

Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic in HBO’s ‘Welcome To Chechnya’

Some news items you might have missed:

Oregon Live: A gay man recently became angry with his mother when she didn’t know how to respond when he introduced his new boyfriend who is HIV-positive. She fears if they stay together and have children the new boo might infect the future/possible kids. She wrote to the popular column ‘Ask Amy’ for advice.

CBS Detroit: A Wisconsin woman who has taken hydroxychloroquine for 19 years to treat lupus has tested positive for COVID-19. The woman, a self-described Trump supporter, says she only left her home to go the grocery store. She told CBS News she thought she would be safe because of what Donald Trump has said about the drug.

HBO: From Academy Award-nominated director David France comes Welcome to Chechnya, a powerful and eye-opening documentary about a group of activists risking their lives to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ persecution in the repressive and closed Russian republic of Chechnya.

Politico: More than 40,000 National Guard members currently helping states during the coronavirus health threat will face a “hard stop” on their deployments on June 24 — just one day shy of many members becoming eligible for key federal benefits like education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI bill and/or early retirement.

Bloomberg News: Researchers are finding evidence that patients who test positive for the coronavirus after recovering aren’t capable of transmitting the infection, and could have the antibodies that prevent them from falling sick again.

AZ Central: Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) dropped four percentage points in a month trailing Democrat Mark Kelly by 13 points, according to the latest tracking poll by OH Predictive Insights. The same poll in April favored Kelly 51% to McSally’s 42%, and now in May, it’s 51%-38%. The poll shows independents breaking more than 2-1 for Kelly.

TikTok: Since the fan on my two-year-old laptop sometimes goes into high gear for no apparent reason, I clicked on this. I had no idea computers could get so filthy inside.

Podcast: UNSAD Podcast, Ohio Teacher Fired For Having Husband, Ryan Murphy’s ‘Hollywood’

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

In this week’s podcast:

• A former police officer will receive a settlement after being denied a job because he is HIV positive

• Ohio teacher fired for having a husband

• Small steps forward for LGBTQ rights in Morocco

• The Trump administration is close to removing important anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQs from the Affordable Care Act

• Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix series Hollywood is a progressive, pro-LGBTQ reimagining of post-World War II Tinseltown

• New ‘good news’ podcast to help you sleep at night – UNSAD Podcast www.unsadpodcast.com

All that and more in this episode of The Randy Report podcast

Experts: HIV+/Undetectable People Aren’t At Greater Risk From COVID-19

From the beginning of the coronavirus threat, we’ve been told those most at-risk of infection are older adults, people with serious chronic medical conditions, and those with compromised immune systems.

Some people living with HIV have been confused, however, as to whether they are or are not in that high-risk pool.

Speaking with MetroWeekly, Dr. Sebastian Ruhs, the director of the Infectious Diseases Center of Excellence at Chase Brexton Health Care in Baltimore, said people who are HIV+ with an undetectable viral load thanks to taking antiretroviral medications on a regular basis are not at any greater risk than the general population.

“The current data that we have is that someone who has a normal CD4 and is on medication to maintain an undetectable viral load does not behave any different from someone who is HIV-negative,” said Ruhs. “So the risk for that population isn’t any higher. In that respect, corona appears to behave in a manner like other seasonal viruses do.”

Ruhs does recommend that people living with HIV who are not taking their medications on a regular basis resume care and get back to undetectable status if possible. Additionally, anyone with HIV is urged to be up-to-date with their vaccines.

Related: Health Officials Warn Of Specific Vulnerabilities Of LGBTQs To Coronavirus

During a special session of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections on March 10, Dr. John Brooks, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underscored that position saying that HIV-positive people who have a low CD4 count or do not have full viral suppression on antiretrovirals could be at greater risk.

Additionally, as I recently reported, the LGBTQ community does have its own unique risk factors during health crises thanks to higher rates of smoking, certain types of cancer, and difficulties accessing healthcare either due to discrimination or lack of insurance coverage.

For now, make sure you wash your hands regularly with soap and water, practice good ‘social distancing,’ and if you aren’t feeling well, stay home, rest and hydrate.

Also, in this time of great uncertainty, remember to support each other and ensure we do all that we can to help and empower the most vulnerable.

(source: MetroWeekly)

News Round-Up: November 5, 2019

The Chippendales (photo: Kip Canyon)

Some news items you might have missed:

InstaHunks: So, apparently the world-famous Chippendales (above) work out…a lot. #dang

• Politico: Sen. Elizabeth Warren has pledged that her first step as president would be to overturn President Donald Trump’s decision to prohibit transgender troops in the military.

Men’s Health: Rugby legend Gareth Thomas, who recently came out as HIV-positive, covers this month’s issue of Men’s Health UK. “It’s a sign of where we are that a man LIVING with HIV is on the cover of Men’s Health,” wrote the 45-year-old athlete on social media.

Fox News: A new poll from Fox News shows former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump in a hypothetical 2020 head-to-head matchup – and she’s not even running.

OUT: A daycare center in Switzerland has come under fire for turning away a pair of twin boys because they have gay parents. The family was informed the boys would not be welcome in the playgroup because their parents’ relationship is “neither normal nor natural.”

Campaign Ad: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, currently landing in 3rd place in Iowa polls, has a new campaign spot out in Iowa that highlights national unity. Titled “Sun Comes Up,” the ad asks voters to imagine the first day when Trump is no longer president, as Buttigieg promises to pick up the pieces of our divided nation.

Gareth Thomas & Prince Harry Will Team Up To Combat HIV Stigma

After coming out as HIV-positive this weekend via a video message on Twitter, rugby legend Gareth Thomas has received an outpouring of support from not only fans but the royal family.

In the video, Thomas shared that had been diagnosed with HIV some years ago but was coming out now after an unnamed tabloid threatened to ‘blackmail’ him about his status.

The 45-year-old athlete feared “people would treat me like a leper because of a lack of knowledge,” he told the Sunday Mirror. The rugby icon said by coming out as HIV-positive, he hopes to educate others and break the stigma associated with being positive.

He’s already received encouragement from both Princes Harry and William, who shared their support via social media.

On the Instagram account for SussexRoyal, Prince Harry shared Thomas’ HIV message and praised the athlete for his strength, resiliency, and courage.

“Gareth, you are an absolute legend!,” read the post which was signed ‘H’ for Harry. “In sharing your story of being HIV+, you are saving lives and shattering stigma, by showing you can be strong and resilient while living with HIV. We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you.”

Prince William responded on the KensingtonRoyal Instagram account with the message, “Courageous as ever – legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth.” The missive was signed ‘W’ for Prince William.

The former Celebrity Big Brother star has now announced that he will collaborate with Prince Harry to address the stigma associated with HIV.

“Like me, Prince Harry wants to break the stigma around HIV and he has already done a lot of great work,” Thomas told the Sunday Mirror. “We are planning to work together now.”

He added, “To do something with him will be really powerful.”

Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, was a trailblazer during the early days of the HIV epidemic promoting awareness on the condition. She was credited with changing people’s attitudes about the disease when she was photographed shaking hands with a patient during a visit to the UK’s first AIDS clinic.

“Quite often I look at that photo of Diana at the clinic next to those frail-looking men and then I look at a photo of myself out on my bike and it motivates me because I can see how things have changed and advanced,” Thomas told the Mirror.

He added, “It also makes me realise how lucky I am because I see what it was like for them and I know 30 years ago that could have been me.”

Thomas also shared he’s received calls from other UK luminaries like Elton John.

The rugby star said he had to pull off the road when he got the call from the music legend.

“He said, ‘What you are doing is a brilliant thing,’” said Thomas. “It’s really brave of you. I’ll support you all the way.”

Others expressing their support include actress Samantha Womack and Andy Bell, lead singer of Erasure.

Demonstrating the strength of his health (Thomas shared in his message that his viral load is undetectable), the ITV sportscaster followed his coming out by participating in an Iron Man event in Tenby just hours after his announcement.

He finished the grueling athletic event in 12 hours, 18 minutes and 29 seconds, coming in 413th out of 2,039 participants.

(lead images via GarethThomasOfficial and SussexRoyal Instagram accounts)

Rugby Legend Gareth Thomas Comes Out As HIV+

In a candid video message shared via social media, rugby legend Gareth Thomas (above) has revealed that he is HIV-positive.

Thomas, who came out publicly as gay in 2009 and retired from the sport in 2011, made the announcement Saturday in a video posted on Twitter. As part of his message, he shared he was making the announcement now because he was ‘being blackmailed’ over his status.

“I want to share my secret with you,” the former Wales rugby star shares in the video message. “Why? Because it’s mine to tell you. Not the evils that make my life hell by threatening to tell you before I do. And because I believe in you and I trust you.”

After pausing for a moment, the 45-year-old athlete continued, “I’m living with HIV.”

“Now you have that information, that makes me extremely vulnerable, but it does not make me weak,” he added. “Now, even though I’ve been forced to tell you this, I choose to fight to educate and break the stigma around this subject. And that begins today.”

“Everyone lives in fear of people’s reactions and opinions to something about them, but that doesn’t mean we should have to hide,” concluded the rugby icon. “But to do this I really, really need your support.”

The former Celebrity Big Brother star told the Sunday Mirror that even though he’d been living with his secret for years, he made the decision to come out as HIV+ now because “I was being blackmailed, and in my mind you only get blackmailed for something really bad, which compounded the feeling of shame.”

Thomas didn’t name the outlet threatening to out his status.

Explaining that living with the secret has worn heavily on him, he shared his concerns that “people would judge me and treat me like a leper because of a lack of knowledge.”

“I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal,” he added. “I  thought about driving off a cliff.”

Thomas gives credit to a strong support system around him, including his husband who he married in 2016 after discovering he was HIV-positive.

After years of taking antiretroviral medications, he says his viral load is undetectable, making the possibility of passing on the virus to others practically zero.

“Many people live in fear and shame of having HIV, but I refuse to be one of them now,” Thomas says. “We need to break the stigma once and for all. I’m speaking out because I want to help others and make a difference.”

Today, Thomas works as an ITV pundit for the Rugby World Cup, and is planning on competing today in the Wales Ironman event. “I’m fitter now than when I played rugby and I didn’t have HIV then,” he says. “I’m not just all right, I’m better than all right.”

In November 2018, Thomas was the victim of a gay-bashing incident in his hometown. In lieu of pressing charges, the sports icon instead asked for an apology.

The reaction on social media has been overwhelmingly positive, including a message from Prince William via the Kensington Palace Twitter account.