Billy Porter has kept his HIV diagnosis a secret for 14 long years, but no more.
The Emmy-winning actor decided to open up about living with HIV after living it out on FX’s hit show Pose. In the show, which is now in its final season, he plays Pray Tell, the emcee of the ball scene diagnosed with HIV in the first season. Porter says the playing the character on the show allowed him to “say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate.”
Porter, 51, revealed in a cover story for The Hollywood Reporter that dropped on Wednesday (May 19) that he learned of his HIV positive diagnosis after a routine test.
Porter kept it a secret until the COVID-19 pandemic safely hiding out with his husband in a rented house in Long Island that that actor revealed: “created a safe space for me to stop and reflect and deal with the trauma in my life.”
“There’s happiness, yes; there’s surface joy, but there was also a feeling of dread, all day, every day. It wasn’t a fear that [my status] was going to come out or that somebody was going to expose me; it was just the shame that it had happened in the first place,” Porter told the publication.
“And as a Black person, particularly a Black man on this planet, you have to be perfect, or you will get killed. But look at me. Yes, I am the statistic, but I’ve transcended it. This is what HIV-positive looks like now,” he added.
Now, Porter says he is healthier thanks to medication and quarterly visits from his doctor. The actor/musician revealed he broke a promise he made to himself that he wasn’t going to tell his mother about being HIV positive until she died. He says she was only upset that he didn’t tell her about his diagnosis sooner.
Now, Porter feels like a burden has been lifted off him, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “There’s no more stigma — let’s be done with that. It’s time. I’ve been living it and being in the shame of it for long enough. And I’m sure this will follow me. I’m sure this is going to be the first thing everybody says, “HIV-positive blah, blah, blah.” OK. Whatever. It’s not the only thing I am. I’m so much more than that diagnosis. And if you don’t want to work with me because of my status, you’re not worthy of me.”
Photo: Jamie McCarthy / Getty