NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Actor Billy Porter revealed Wednesday he is HIV positive and says he has been living with the secret for 14 years.
Porter is now speaking his truth.READ MORE: 15-Year-Old Fatally Stabbed In Brooklyn, Police Questioning Person Of Interest
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reports, it’s a secret now publicly shared. Billy Porter held on to it for 14 years as he rose to fame on Broadway and TV.
“Nobody knew,” he told TV host Tamron Hall. “I didn’t tell anybody.”
Porter told Hall only a handful of people knew of his HIV positive diagnosis in 2007. He said his relationship with the Pentecostal Church growing up in Pittsburgh had already complicated his coming out as gay. But even more difficult, he said, was sharing his HIV status. He said he thought he’d never tell his mother, and only recently changed his mind.
“When I finally told her I’m HIV positive, which was maybe two months three months ago,” he said. “She said to me stop doing this son… stop hiding. Stop withholding from her. She says you spent 14 years with this by yourself for no reason.”
The social services group GMHC, formerly known as Gay Men’s Health released this statement: “When activists such as Billy come forward, the impact helps with decreasing stigma connected to people living with HIV and AIDS.”READ MORE: Ahead Of Father's Day, Mets Host Families Who Lost Loved Ones On 9/11: 'It Opens Up The Wounds'
Carlin talked with leaders of GMHC about ongoing discrimination.
“The stigma is still so great that this is still an individual choice but what is your hope?” Carlin asked.
“Until we can fight and get rid of homophobia in this country and racism in ageism,” said Gregg Bruckno of GMHC. “It is the stigma that attached to it that is a psychological burden.”
“He’s the perfect person to do it,” said Hell’s Kitchen resident James Abel. “Think about what it was like before you came out. That was the burden, burden to carry it for years and years, and you have the courage to do that now, come out and say you’re also HIV positive. It’s just like another level.”
Porter wowed audiences as Lola in Kinky Boots and he won the Tony award for that. Now he vows he will be back on Broadway, but first he’s directing a film and he’s written a book.
“I got my memoir coming out in the fall so you get to hear all of it,” he said.MORE NEWS: Claremont Residents Say Overflowing Garbage Is Leading To Major Rat Problem In Community
He says he and his husband, Adam Smith will start a family. And that at 51 years old, living his truth, he’s finding healing and happiness.