Billy Porter Reveals He Has Been HIV-Positive for 14 Years

Hollywood celebrity Billy Porter revealed that he is HIV positive. 

The actor talked about his positive diagnosis in a recent interview, sharing details about his struggle publicly for the first time.

Porter, 51, said he was diagnosed with HIV back in 2007. In the next decade and a half, he won Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards and currently stars on the FX series “Pose,” where he plays Pray Tell, an HIV-positive character.

Billy Porter as Pray Tell in ‘Pose’. Image: FX

The series explores the 1990s and 1990s drag culture and follows Black and Latino gay characters at the peak of the AIDS epidemic.

Porter said that by playing the role he was able to say everything he wanted “through a surrogate.”

Image: Hollywood Reporter/Lia Clay Miller

Nobody suspected that he was dealing with the same problem in his own life. 

In an interview with Lacey Rose, Porter said:

“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. So it’s time to put my big boy pants on and talk.”

He also recalled that at the time of his diagnosis, he was getting tested for HIV every 6 months “like you were supposed to,” and he couldn’t believe it when the doctor told him he was positive.

“For a long time, everybody who needed to know, knew — except for my mother,” he said. “I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew.”

Porter said his HIV would just be used as another way to discriminate against him.

He has been hiding his diagnosis ever since, but while he was in quarantine with his husband, Adam Smith, he started to think about make it public and also telling his mother.

“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,'” he said.

“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,” he said.

The actor said he goes for a check-up every three months and he’s never been healthier.

“So it’s time to let all that go and tell a different story,” he said. “There’s no more stigma — let’s be done with that. It’s time.”

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After telling his mother, Porter told the cast and crew of ‘Pose’.

“The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me,” he said.

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