Billy Porter, Tamron Hall overcome with tears discussing HIV diagnosis

“Why did I survive? What’s the point? Because there’s something in the survival that is greater than me," Porter said.

After revealing his HIV-positive status in an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Reporter this week, Billy Porter dished further about his truth during a candid conversation with Tamron Hall on her daytime talk show. 

The Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor has been living with HIV since 2007, and he told Hall it was “one of the worse years of my life.” 

Read More: Billy Porter reveals he is HIV-positive: ‘Truth is the healing’

“2007 we’ll start there, the backstory…was one of the worst years of my life,” Porter said Wednesday on the Tamron Hall Show. “I say I was on the precipice of obscurity and wasn’t working a lot in showbusiness. February of that year, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Type two, hereditary, it’s in my family. By March I was filing bankruptcy papers and by June of that year, 2007, I was diagnosed HIV-positive.”

Billy Porter
(Credit: YouTube screenshot)

On the moment he tested positive for HIV, Porter recalled, “So I had a pimple on my butt. It just came on my butt, a regular pimple. A week it got bigger. Another week, it got harder. You know, then all of a sudden it felt like it was infected and I couldn’t really sit on my right side and I had to maneuver and so I didn’t have medical insurance at the time,” he explained.

“And I went to the Callen-Lorde LGBTQ clinic, and the man at the desk said, ‘Well, do you want to get an HIV test?’ And it was like, ‘oh, yeah, yeah, it’s about six months. ( I’d do it every six months.) Yes, of course.’ And so I got the test. And the doctor looked at my butt and then I was waiting for about 20 minutes and then the doctor came out with that look. I knew exactly what he was about to say. I responded, just as I had, just as I did in season one, episode four of ‘Pose’ when they tell Pray Tell,” Porter continued.

Porter says his Pose character, Pray Tell, inspired him to speak publicly about his secret. 

“Why did I survive? What’s the point? Because there’s something in the survival that is greater than me,” Porter said.

“And then Pose happened. And I said, ‘OK God, universe, she, them, they’ – whatever we call the force – ‘I understand because I was left here to tell the story, to remind the world that we were here, we’ve always been here, we’re still here, and we’re not ever going anywhere,’” he continued. He described the series as a gift, noting that it allowed him to process and overcome the trauma and “survivor’s guilt” he suffered through surrounding his HIV diagnosis.

Porter described the shame he carried due to his HIV diagnosis as “debilitating.”

“The shame took over because I’m the generation that was supposed to know better, so here I am,” he told Hall. “My stomach just felt like it was always in knots. It felt like there was a hand on my heart squeezing every day all day,” Porter said. “Every morning I would wake up with dread and try to find my way to work through it. Shame is a destroyer. It destroys everything.”

Read More: ‘Proud Family’ reboot to star Billy Porter, Zachary Quinto as gay couple

Elsewhere in the interview, Porter praised his mother for being loving and supportive after he told her he was HIV positive earlier this year.

“When I finally told her I was HIV-positive, which was maybe a month and a half to two months ago since 2007, I told her and she said, ‘Son, I love you. I will always love you. I have always loved you. none of this matters. I just want to know that you’re healthy.’ I was like, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been,” he said, adding that his mother asked him to “please stop withholding from her.”

Porter then urged Hall’s viewers to see “the God” in him.

“I say God because we have to start speaking in the right terms,” Porter explained. “The first thing that’s taken away from us as LGBTQ people, from everybody, is our spirituality, is God. ‘God hates fags’ – no he doesn’t. Stop it. I can’t do it and I won’t do it anymore.”

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