Billy Porter, 51, known for his roles in ‘American Horror Story’ and ‘Pose’ was diagnosed in 2007 but said that he had “lived in shame in silence” until now.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Porter said: “There’s no more stigma – let’s be done with that. It’s time.”
“I was the generation that was supposed to know better, and it happened anyway,” he said of contracting HIV.
“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.”
Porter felt that “everybody who needed to know”, explaining: “I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew.
“It would just be another way for people to discriminate against me in an already discriminatory profession. So, I tried to think about it as little as I could. I tried to block it out.”
Porter said that until recently he hadn’t shared his status with his mother because he was “embarrassed and ashamed” that he would be the “statistic everyone said I would be”.
On the last day of filming ‘Pose’ Ported decided to “rip the band-aid off” and told her. His mother 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.’
Explaining the reality of treatment in 2021 and that modern treatments mean people can live long and healthy lives with HIV, Porter said: “This is what HIV-positive looks like now,”
“I’m going to die from something else before I die from that. My T-cell levels are twice yours because of this medication.”
The red ribbon continues to be the universal symbol for the HIV/AIDS movement worldwide, and Patrick O’Connell’s legacy will live on.
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