By Lisa Respers France, CNN
(CNN/KDKA) — Pittsburgh native Billy Porter made history by winning an Emmy in 2019 for his role as Pray Tell, a character who is HIV-positive, on the FX series “Pose.”READ MORE: Two Of The Three Victims Killed In The Biomat USA Plasma Center Car Crash Were Employees
Now Porter has shared that he’s been drawing on his own life as an HIV-positive gay man for the role.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Porter revealed that he was first diagnosed 14 years ago.
The actor explained that in 2007 his life was in a bit of a shambles after having been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, filed for bankruptcy and then 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 told the publication. “HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment.”
Porter, 51, was raised in Pittsburgh and also attended Carnegie Mellon University.
Of telling his mother of his diagnosis, he writes, “She’s like, ‘Son, please tell me what’s wrong.’ So 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.'”
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 about it all.READ MORE: Severe Thunderstorm Watch Issued For Pittsburgh Area; High Winds, Potential Hail Expected
Now he says medical advances have helped him have undetectable levels of the virus in his system and Porter is now ready to tell the world “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.”
“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.”
To read the full article in The Hollywood Reporter, click here.
GLAAD has released this statement on Porter’s revelation:
GLAAD Communities of Color Associate Director DaShawn Usher, “The tremendous levels of stigma facing people living with HIV today can only be broken by icons like Billy Porter showing the world that HIV is not at all a barrier to a healthy and successful life. People living with HIV today, when on effective treatment, lead long and healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV, plus medications like PrEP protect people who do not have HIV from contracting HIV, but these leaps in HIV prevention and treatment have largely been invisible in the news and entertainment industries. When the groundbreaking show Pose goes off air in a few weeks, there will be zero television characters living with HIV. That is truly unacceptable when 1.2 million Americans and about 38 million people globally are living with HIV. Billy’s powerful interview needs to be a wake-up call for media and the general public that it’s time to end the stigma that people living with HIV face and to educate each other about HIV prevention and treatment.”
Porter recently announced on a late-night talk show that he would be returning to Pittsburgh soon to direct his very first feature film.MORE NEWS: Consumer Alert Issued For Italian Village Pizza/Shake Shop In Pleasant Hills
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