While many praised Jonathan Van Ness’s bravery for opening up about his HIV diagnosis, the ‘Queer Eye’ star says we have a lot more work to do to remove the stigma.
Jonathan Van Ness detailed many significant parts of his life in his new book, Over The Top, with one portion being one of the darkest moments in his life — when he was a heartbroken 25-year-old dealing with extreme anxiety and finding out he had HIV. While he was met with incredible support, he spoke to HollywoodLife.com about what he learned from opening up about his diagnosis. “What the headline missed is that my stepfather, who I loved, had just died from bladder cancer — three weeks before my diagnosis, I had just moved across the country, my partner had just left me…it wasn’t just finding out that I had HIV that was devastating…The whole culmination of a lot of things came into that moment, and I think people are really quick to try to misunderstand. At large, we’re not understanding what it is to live with HIV,” Jonathan explained to HL in an EXCLUSIVE interview to celebrate World Mental Health Day with Zumba Fitness. “I was heartened by the outpouring of support, but I think I’ve also been a little bit surprised by the continued blatant misconceptions and misunderstandings of living with HIV in America, or anywhere in the world.”
He continued, “People don’t understand how difficult it is to access treatment for people who are dealing with poverty or addiction. We just need to talk more about HIV, HIV medication, the lack of social safety net for people that are living with HIV, and the increasing coverage for PrEP.” Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at very high risk of getting HIV to prevent getting the infection by taking a pill every day. JVN added that California is the first state that is going to allow people to get PrEP without a prescription moving forward.
The Queer Eye star also spoke about his own mental health, while partnering with Zumba Fitness for World Mental Health Day on October 10. “I do Zumba a lot in the several different cities I’ve lived in over the years and it’s always been an activity that I thought was just really great fun and really great energy, and it’s such a great way for anyone to take time out for yourself and incorporate fun and movement and self-care into your schedule!” Jonathan gushed. “Zumba has not gone anywhere, and it’s here for you!”