Actor and singer Billy Porter publicly shared that he was HIV positive for the first time Wednesday, a diagnosis he has not disclosed for 14 years.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Porter shared that he found out he tested positive for the disease in 2007.
The "Pose" star recounted to the Reporter that it was the worst year of his life — he had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and filed for bankruptcy in 2007 as well.
Porter, an openly gay man, shared that he was in a generation that knew about the HIV/AIDS crisis. When he received diagnosis, he felt shame because, "I was the generation that was supposed to know better, and it happened anyway."
“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,” Porter told the Reporter. “HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment.”
The star says that he has questioned why he "lived through a plague," referring to the epidemic that ravaged the LGBT community in the 1980s and 1990s.
"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. There’s a whole generation that was here, and I stand on their shoulders. I can be who I am in this space, at this time, because of the legacy that they left for me," he said.
Porter said that his role playing a HIV-positive character on “Pose” was a way to work through the trauma of his diagnosis and tell his story through Pray Tell, according to the interview.
Porter told the Reporter that there’s feelings of happiness, joy and dread by living with the virus, adding that he didn’t fear someone was going to expose him for having the virus but, but was ashamed “it happened in the first place.”
“And as a Black person, particularly a Black man on this planet, you have to be perfect or you will get killed. But look at me. Yes, I am the statistic, but I’ve transcended it," he said. "This is what HIV-positive looks like now. I’m going to die from something else before I die from that.”