Broadway star Javier Muñoz, who notably starred as Usnavi de la Vega in the 2008 musical In the Heights and as Alexander Hamilton in the 2015 musical Hamilton, has lived with HIV since 2002. Speaking with Plus in 2016, Muñoz said he wanted to “kick the shit” out of HIV stigma and “knock it on its fucking teeth,” adding: “I’m tired of its existence. It has no place in 2016, going forward from this day on. Period.” Recently, the acclaimed performer spoke to People about his concerns as a HIV-positive cancer survivor in the COVID pandemic, and “possible exposure” due his “immunocompromised” status. “It‘s not an exaggeration; anyone who is immunocompromised, living through this pandemic, had to be the most careful in every single way. It really is about being so careful,” Muñoz stated. “And it’s why it‘s so important to care about masking [and] taking care of yourself because you don’t know who‘s around you. And what they are living with. Not every illness is seen.”
Jonathan Van Ness
In 2019, Queer Eye’s beloved hair expert called himself a proud “member of the beautiful H.I.V.-positive community” in a heartfelt interview. Speaking with The New York Times, Jonathan revealed that he was introduced to methamphetamine after moving to Los Angeles, which made his addiction to sex and drugs worsen. Following an incident at work, in which they fainted, Jonathan tested positive for HIV. “That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be,” they told the publication. “When ‘Queer Eye’ came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?’ And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the L.G.B.T. community thrive around me.’ I do feel the need to talk about this.” Jonathan added: “These are all difficult subjects to talk about on a makeover show about hair and makeup. That doesn’t mean ‘Queer Eye’ is less valid, but I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed.” The star went into further detail about their experience with HIV in their memoir, Over the Top.
During his stint on the eighth season of Project Runway, where he placed runner-up, Mondo Guerra told the judging panel that he was HIV-positive, and had kept it a secret for over 10 years. The fashion designer, who was diagnosed in 2002, later spoke with mentor Tim Gunn about his status “off camera”, where he praised Guerra for being so open. “He sat next to me and encouraged me and congratulated me for being able to talk about it,” Guerra told Plus. “He shared his own personal stories of being affected by HIV and moving to New York in the ’80s when it was so prominent and scary. It was really wonderful to feel that Tim felt comfortable enough to share a little bit of himself.” Guerra later returned to Project Runway for the first season of All Stars, which he won.
Oliver Sim’s debut solo album, Hideous Bastard, as well as its accompanying short horror film, explore “shame and fear” surrounding his queerness and HIV status while taking fans on an adventure filled with “fantasy and humour”. The musician, best known as the guitarist and vocalist of British electronic band the xx, publicly came out as HIV positive on social media as he reflected on the creation of the album and its various subject matters. “I’ve been living with HIV since I was 17 and it’s played with how I’ve felt towards myself, and how I’ve assumed others have felt towards me, from that age and into my adult life,” he wrote, to praise from fans and HIV/AIDS charities. Speaking with GAY TIMES about Hideous Bastard, Oliver said “being able to talk about these things and even being able to mention my HIV, that would’ve been impossible three years ago.”
Ongina broke boundaries for LGBTQ+ people on the small screen when she bravely came out as HIV-positive to RuPaul and her fellow contestants on the first season of Drag Race; creating a much-needed discussion about attitudes and stigmas towards those living with HIV in the process. In the years since, Ongina hosted HIV and Me, a talk show in which she interviews different individuals on their experiences living with HIV, and became a spokesperson for OraQuick, one of the first at-home HIV testing kits. Speaking with The Body in 2017, Ongina said viewers “found a closer connection to my beyond my persona” after coming out on Drag Race, and “because of this, I’m using it to raise important awareness for HIV, trans rights, equality, and basic human rights.”
Trinity K. Bonet
Drag Race star Trinity K. Bonet memorably came out as HIV-positive during her run on the reality show’s sixth season, the second queen to do so after Ongina, where she told her fellow contestants: “I was diagnosed in August 2012, and I have so much to live for. I have so many goals and aspirations that I want to conquer in my life, so I’m not going to let an obstacle get in the way. I wanted to come on this show, and I wanted to be that voice for people who are scared to speak out about that.” When she returned for the sixth season of All Stars, she used her platform once again to educate viewers on being HIV-positive in modern day society. “I’m successful, I got my shit together, I’m good in bed. I’m taking care of myself — I’m undetectable which is untransmittable,” said Trinity. “There’s a lot of people out here who are not educated that you can be with someone who is HIV-positive if they are undetectable and not catch the virus.” Since rising to fame on the series, Trinity has become a high-profile HIV/AIDS activist with headline appearances at Rock The Know on World AIDS Day and Slay Stigma – a Canadian tour raising awareness of HIV.
*article first published on www.gaytime.co.uk