Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst has revealed that she is HIV positive after being allegedly blackmailed by an ex-boyfriend.
Wurst revealed she had ‘been HIV positive for many years’ in a moving Instagram post.
The 2014 Eurovision winner decided to let the world know her status because an ex-boyfriend had threatened to reveal the information.
‘I have 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.
Best known for performing in drag with a full beard, Wurst won Eurovision with her song, Rise Like A Phoenix.
She has received treatment for HIV for many years and said she was doing well.
‘Since I received the diagnosis, I have been in medical treatment, and for many years without interruption I have been below the detection limit, which means I am unable to transmit the virus,’ she wrote.
Why Wurst went public now
Wurst told her fans that there were a number of reasons she had not gone public with her status earlier.
They were to spare her family the attention of having a relative living with HIV. But her family have supported her ‘unconditionally since day one’.
The second reason was because the information was only relevant to people she chose to have sexual contact with.
But Wurst understood by coming out she has the power to end the stigma against people living with HIV.
‘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,’ she said.
‘To my fans: the information about my HIV status may be new to you – my status is not! I’m well and well, and I’m stronger, more motivated and liberated than ever. Thank you for your support!’
Wurst’s decision to be open about her HIV status was applauded by sexual health advocates. Ian Green, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said in a statement: ‘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.’