Billy Porter reveals he was diagnosed HIV-positive in 2007

Billy Porter
(Image credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Award-winning actor Billy Porter has revealed he's been living with HIV for 14 years.

Porter, who became the first openly gay Black man to win a lead drama actor Emmy for his role on Pose, in a new Hollywood Reporter piece opened up for the first time about being diagnosed HIV-positive in 2007.

"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 says. "HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God's punishment."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The Kinky Boots star describes being uncertain he could "have a life and a career" if people knew about his diagnosis, fearing it would "just be another way for people to discriminate against me in an already discriminatory profession," so for years, he "tried to block it out." But he describes the experience of revealing his diagnosis to his mother for the first time by saying it "felt like a hand was holding my heart clenched for years — for years — and it's all gone," adding, "The truth is the healing."

Porter's character on Pose is also HIV-positive, and he says the show provided an opportunity "to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate." According to the Reporter, though, no one involved with Pose was aware of Porter's diagnosis.

"There's no more stigma — let's be done with that," Porter says. "It's time. I've been living it and being in the shame of it for long enough. And I'm sure this will follow me. I'm sure this is going to be the first thing everybody says, 'HIV-positive blah, blah, blah.' OK. Whatever. 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."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.