Dick Donato, 'Big Brother' Contestant, Reveals He's HIV-Positive
Dick Donato, who won season 8 of Big Brother, revealed on Couples Therapy that he’s been living with HIV for years.
Dick Donato Is HIV-Positive
Donato, 51, found out he was HIV-positive while filming season 13 of Big Brother back in 2011 with his daughter Daniele Donato. The LA-based bar manager shockingly left the show during filming for “personal reasons,” which Donato is now revealing was his positive HIV test result.
"They told me that something was wrong with my blood test," Donato told People magazine, referring to Big Brother’s producers. "They had done two HIV tests. One had come back positive and the other had come back negative.” Donato revealed that a third test came back positive, adding, “When they told me, I just went numb. They had a car take me from CBS to my mother's house. She was the first person I told."
Aside from his mother, one of the first people Donato had to tell about the diagnosis was his girlfriend. Fortunately for the reality TV show star, his girlfriend not only tested negative for the disease herself, but showed him compassion and understanding. As for other people, Donato has said he’s realized that he can’t worry about what other people will assume about him from his diagnosis.
"People are going to make assumptions about how I got it, and that's okay," he said. "People are afraid to come forward because they're afraid of the stigma of HIV. I'm not gay and I've never stuck a needle in my arm, but at this point, it doesn't matter. We create a stigma around the disease that makes it hard for people to publicly say they have it."
Donato’s decision to be open about his HIV status emerged from a realization that he had a platform from which he could help other people – and because he was tired of lying about it and always worrying about the secret being found out.
"I went to a clinic that had a big sign that said 'HIV' and I thought, 'What if someone sees me?' My computer and router were hacked and I was afraid that someone would leak the information," said Donato. "I came up with excuses – people wondered why I was taking medicine regularly. When people asked why I left Big Brother, I would give quippy, smart-ass answers."
These days, being HIV-positive is not a death sentence and Donato is fortunate that his case is relatively mild.
"I take one pill a day. The only side effect I've noticed is that I have a lot of vivid dreams that wake me up during the night. But it's a small price to pay: My viral load is virtually undetectable, I'm happy to say,” he revealed. “I live a very normal life and don't have a lot of health issues. It also means that it's highly unlikely I could pass the disease along, although I don't have unsafe sex anymore. I fully expect to die of something else when I get old, not HIV or AIDS."
Donato will go into further detail about his diagnosis on Wednesday’s episode of VH1’s Couple’s Therapy in a session with Dr. Jenn Berman. In an episode to air later on, he’ll talk about it with the rest of the show’s cast.