Austrian singer Conchita Wurst has revealed that she is living with HIV, after an ex-partner threatened to make the information public.
Wurst, a drag queen who rose to international prominence when she won the popular European singing competition the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, wrote on her Instagram profile she has been “HIV positive for many years.”
“This is actually irrelevant to the public, but an ex-boyfriend is threatening to go public with this private information, and I will not give anyone the right to frighten me or affect my life,” Wurst wrote.
Combatting the misconception that HIV is a death sentence, the singer said that she has been receiving treatment for the condition for many years without interruption. As a result, she is below the detection limit of the virus and is unable to pass it on.
Wurst said that she did not go public with the information because it is only relevant to those she has sexual contact with. She also wanted her loved ones to avoid the unwarranted stigma of having a relative with HIV, but said they have supported her “unconditionally since day one.”
“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 behavior 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!"
She thanked fans for their support, and said she feels "stronger, more motivated and liberated than ever."
HIV campaigners have slammed her ex-partner’s actions, but praised Wurst for the “dignity” with which she has dealt with the situation.
Ian Green, chief executive of the sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "The decision to talk openly about your 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.
"Despite all the medical advances we've made in the fight against HIV, in treatment and in testing, Conchita's Instagram post highlights how much more we have to do to tackle the abhorrent stigma which still surrounds 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.
“Conchita has done so much good since winning Eurovision four years ago, and has shown her strength of character once again in her handling of this situation.”
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