Jonathan Van Ness opens up about living with HIV

Jonathan Van Ness

Jonathan Van Ness has opened up about living with HIV, and said that it’s something he needs to talk about to resist the “stigmatisation of the LGBT community” in the Trump era.

His HIV-positive status is just one of the difficult topics he will tackle in his upcoming memoir Over The Top, he told The New York Times in an interview. 

He said: “It’s hard for me to be as open as I want to be when there are certain things I haven’t shared publicly. These are issues that need to be talked about.”

Van Ness revealed that as a child he was sexually abused by an older boy at his church, which left him with “a lot of compounded trauma” that he said led to self-destructive behaviour.

In his early teens he would meet up with older men for sex, and when he went to college he quickly developed a drug addiction. Running out of money and not wanting to ask his mother for more, he started exchanging sex for money.

After a year, he dropped out of college and returned home. By the time he was in his twenties he was addicted to smoking methamphetamine, which put him in rehab twice.

At the age of 25, working in a hair salon, he fainted while doing highlights for a client. He found out later than he had HIV.

He writes in his book: “That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be.”

Jonathan Van Ness

Jonathan Van Ness attends the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for GLAAD)

Jonathan Van Ness said the Trump administration helps stigma “thrive”

Now healthy and having not taken hard drugs in years, he hopes his memoir will raise awareness and banish misconceptions about HIV.

He now proudly describes himself as “member of the beautiful HIV-positive community,” although he felt nervous about revealing his status to the world.

He said: “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 stigmatisation of the LGBT community thrive around me.’

“I do feel the need to talk about this.”

He 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 realise you’re never too broken to be fixed.”

Van Ness, who came out as non-binary this year, will release his memoir Over The Top on September 26.