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Broadway performer reveals he’s HIV positive to help tackle stigma

Written by gaytourism

Hernando Umana (Photo: @hernandoumana | Instagram)

A Broadway performer has written a moving Instagram post in which he reveals he has been HIV positive for the past ten years. Hernando Umana says he decided to post about it as he wants to help tackle stigma around the virus.

Umana appeared in the original Broadway production of Kinky Boots and the US touring production of School of Rock. He’s also gay, a keen fitness enthusiast and proud dog dad. He also recently co-founded a new hemp oil pet product business.

In the posting, he reveals he was diagnosed ten years ago when aged just 20. He was shocked by the diagnosis because he says he’d only slept with three other people at the time and wasn’t expecting the news.

‘This is by far the most important, scary, liberating post of my life,’ Umana begins.

‘Here we go. Ten years ago, at a young, young age of 20, I was diagnosed with HIV. I’ll never forget the moment they told me. It wasn’t possible – I had only slept with 3 people in my life! This can’t be true.

‘The first words out of my mouth were “How long do I have to live?” That’s how uneducated I was about it. It had been drilled in my head that gay people get HIV because of wrongdoings and they deservingly die from it.

‘Well I’m here to shut that shit down. There is NOTHING wrong with me and I am healthier than I’ve ever been.

‘In the last 10 years I’ve met countless of HIV positive men. Some of these men are so affected by the stigma that they don’t tell a soul about their status, even go as far as not taking their medication.

‘In our extremely privileged community the stigma is more dangerous than the disease. We still have a lot of fighting to do for the people who don’t have the privilege of cost-effective medication.

‘Let’s talk about it. Let’s ask questions’

‘So I stand on the shoulders of people like @staleypr [HIV and LGBTI rights activist Peter Staley] who risked his life for us. I stand on the shoulders of the millions of people who had to suffer and die from this disease. I stand on the shoulders of the gay men who were forced out of the closet in such a scary time.

‘These men and woman fought and died to get to where we’re at now – to take a pill at night and never have to worry about dying. To get the disease to a point where it is IMPOSSIBLE to transmit (undetectable).

‘How can I be ashamed of this? I honor their legacy by telling my story. So let’s talk about it. Let’s ask questions. Take your PrEP. Use condoms. Be SAFE. Let’s end this stigma forever and eventually end HIV forever!

‘To those who have questions – don’t feel dumb asking anything about it. It’s not your fault there’s such a lack of education out there. To those who are afraid to talk about their status – you’ve got at least one guy right here 🙂 you are LOVED. You are BEAUTIFUL and there is nothing wrong with you.

‘I, Hernando Umana, am a proud gay man LIVING with HIV. Fuck that feels good to say.’

‘Thank you for being courageous’

The posting has had thousands of likes since being posted yesterday. Among the hundreds of people to comment are Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy, who said: ‘This is so important! Thank you for being courageous and for educating and inspiring others!’

Another to welcome the posting is Ian Howley, Chief Executive of HERO – the UK-based Health Equality and Rights Organisation.

‘Coming out of the ‘viral closet’ is still a difficult thing for lots of gay and bisexual men living with HIV to do,’ he told GSN.

‘For some it can be an easy process for others it can be a traumatising experience. Many still face a wave of stigma and rejection because of their status.

‘Stigma towards those living with HIV is still having a knock on effect in our fight with HIV. It stops people talking about their status, it creates mental health issues, people living with HIV can feel isolated after a positive diagnosis and there are reports that links suicide to HIV stigma.

‘It also stops people from testing or talking about HIV with potential partners because of fear. This is unacceptable.

‘In 2018 there is no reason why stigma towards those living with HIV should exist.’

The AIDS Memorial

The posting was also re-shared by the popular AIDS Memorial Instagram account. Its founder, Stuart, told GSN why he wanted to re-share it.

‘Hernando’s post just underlines the stigma still out there! It’s ludicrous to think such an announcement in this day and age is still a big deal. But it is.

‘We all know stigma kills. We know that people don’t take their medication because of stigma. That people feel shamed, not worthy and fear rejection. The fact the it took Hernando 10 years to disclose his status just makes you think: how far have we really come?

‘OK, it’s a chronic condition but our attitudes need to catch up fast because people are dying due to stigma.’

GSN has reached out to Hernando Umana for further comment.

See also

Not one case of HIV transmission from HIV positive gay men on effective treatment

HIV stigma summed up in one cruel Grindr message

HIV treatment successful in preventing transmission of virus even without condoms

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