Billy Porter, US actor and singer, says he has been living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) for 14 years.
The movie star, who won an Emmy in 2019 for his role as Pray Tell, an HIV-positive character on the FX series ‘Pose’, brought the revelation to light during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Porter said his life was a mess in 2007 after he was hit by Type II diabetes, filed for bankruptcy, and was diagnosed with 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,” he said.
“HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment.”
Porter said he used his character on ‘Pose’ as a “surrogate” for his status but the pandemic caused him to pause and process his feelings. He said medical advances helped him attain undetectable levels of the virus in his system.
“This is what HIV-positive looks like now. I survived so that I could tell the story. That’s what I’m here for,” he said. “I’m the vessel, and emotionally that was sufficient until it wasn’t,” the actor added.
“It’s time to grow up and move on because shame is destructive — and if not dealt with, it can destroy everything in its path.”
Porter won the 2013 Tony Award for ‘Best Actor in a Musical’ for his role in Kinky Boots. He also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.
In 2014, Porter won a Grammy for ‘Best Musical Theater Album’ with Kinky Boots. After his role in ‘Pose’, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and won the 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor.
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