Billy Porter has been living with HIV for 14 years. The 51-year-old Pose star revealed to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday (May 19th) that he kept his diagnosis a secret for more than a decade because he was ashamed and afraid that it would ruin his career.
The Broadway star even kept his status a secret from his own mother until recently. He told the outlet, “My mother had been through so much already, so much persecution by her religious community because of my queerness, that I just didn’t want her to have to live through their ‘I told you so’s.’ I didn’t want to put her through that.”
But after he and his sister got vaccinated against COVID-19, they decided to visit his mom and tell her the truth. Porter said, “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.’”
Prior to coming out about his diagnosis, he used his role on FX’s Pose “to work through the shame [of HIV]” His character on the show, Pray Tell, is also HIV positive and playing the part gave him the opportunity to “say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate.”
Porter, who has been married since 2017, also revealed that he is in a “mixed-status relationship” with husband, Adam Smith and adds that his own viral load is “completely undetectable.”
The Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner has also set aside his fears about how the diagnosis will affect his career. He said, “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. . . 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.”