Conchita Wurst has revealed she is HIV positive after claiming that a former boyfriend threatened to go public with the information.
The 2014 Eurovision winner took to Instagram to share the information with her fans, vowing that she "will not give anyone the right to frighten me and influence my life in the future”.
Conchita, the drag queen alter ego created by Tom Neuwirth, published a post in German in which she says that she has been HIV positive for “many years” and decided to share this information only because “an ex-boyfriend” threatened to go public with it.
The translated statement reads:
Today is the day to free me from the Sword of Damocles for the rest of my life: I have been HIV positive for many years. This is actually irrelevant to the public, but an ex-boyfriend threatens me to go public with this private information, and I will not give anyone the right to frighten me and influence my life in the future.
Since I received the diagnosis, I am in medical treatment, and for many years without interruption under the detection limit, so that so not able to pass on the virus.
I did not want to go public with it for a couple of reasons so far, I just want to mention two of them here: The most important one was my family, which has known and supported me unconditionally since day one. I would have gladly spared you the attention of the HIV status of your son, grandson and brother.
Likewise, my friends have been aware of this for quite some time and are dealing with it in an unbiased way that I would wish to everyone and everyone concerned.
Secondly, it is an information that I believe is mainly relevant to those people with whom sexual contact is an option.
Coming out is better than being outed by someone else. I hope to build up courage and take another step against the stigmatization of people who have become infected by HIV, either through their own behaviour or through no fault of their own.
To my fans: the information about my HIV status may be new to you – my status is not! I’m well and I’m stronger, more motivated and liberated than ever. Thank you for your support!
The singer is a staunch advocate for LGBT+ rights and once challenged Putin to sit down and talk with her about gay rights during the Eurovision winners’ press conference.
indy100 reached out to a number of HIV and sexual health activists, spokespeople and charities about the circumstances of Wurst’s reveal.
Ian Green, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said that the decision to talk about one’s HIV status should be a “personal one and not taken away or ever, ever used as a threat”.
Threatening to reveal someone's HIV status, under any circumstances, is entirely wrong. What other health condition would be used as blackmail against someone? And we know this isn't something which only happens to those in the public eye.
He adds that despite the medical advances made in treating and testing HIV, Conchita’s Instagram post highlights the existing “abhorrent stigma” still attached to the virus.
We applaud Conchita for handling this with such dignity and including in her post that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment, like her, can't pass the virus on. This is because HIV medication works by shrinking the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels, which both protects the immune system from damage and prevents HIV from being passed on to anyone else.
Matthew Hodson, executive director of Aidsmap is praising the fact Conchita took the opportunity to “dispel ignorance and fear” about HIV detectability.
I welcome that she has already seized the opportunity to dispel ignorance and fear by affirming that when we achieve viral undetectability on HIV treatment, we do not pose any transmission risk to our sexual partners.
97% of people who are on treatment in the UK are now undetectable and can’t pass it on.
Nicholas Baker, outreach and communications manager at GMFA, echoes Green’s sentiments and said it’s “saddening that in 2018 people living with HIV still face stigma”.
GMFA also supports the statements made by Conchita that anyone living with HIV, on effective treatment and has an undetectable viral load is not able to pass HIV to their partners, an important fact that all HIV-negative people should be aware of.
Tom Hayes who is a editor of beyondpositive, a website for HIV positive people, adds that “threats of forced disclosure” is often used as a tool of control against those who are HIV positive.
The criminalisation of HIV transmission is often cited as justification for these acts of oppression and aggression. Even the language used (“disclosure”) is legal language designed to force our hands into sharing our HIV status when we might rather not.
Everyone has the right to expect privacy and dignity when it comes to their health. Those of us living with HIV are no different.
Wurst's statement elicited waves of support from the public.