Billy Porter has broken his silence about what it has been like to live with HIV for 14 years after being diagnosed with the disease. The actor revealed the shame he felt, leading him to hide his condition from people with whom he worked, or was close, including his mother.

The actor was diagnosed with HIV in 2007 and decided to keep quiet about it because he feared “marginalization and retaliation in an industry that hasn’t always been kind to him,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Porter plays an HIV-positive character, Pray Tell, in the FX show Pose. He says he has used his character “as his proxy.”

“I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” he said, even though nobody from the show knew that he was positive.

After the show’s finale, a Netflix documentary about Porter’s life is set to come out later this year. Porter, however, is not interested in “entering the next phase of his life and career with the shame that’s trailed him for more than a decade.”

The fact that he came from a religious family and grew up in the Pentecostal church, made it more difficult for him to speak up and tell his mother about being HIV-positive.

“For a long time, everyone who needed to know knew – except for my mother,” he said. “I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew.”

Porter further explained that he has dealt with trauma and that it has “served” him.

Porter mentioned he had a plan with his sister to get vaccinated and talk to his mom in person to break the news. However, before going to work he called his mom and “ripped the band-aid off.”

“‘You’ve been carrying this around for 14 years? Don’t ever do this again. I’m your mother, I love you no matter what,'” she responded.

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