Jonathan Van Ness Continues to Break Down the Stigma Around HIV

Screenshot: ABC/Jimmy Kimmel Live

While promoting his new book Over the Top on Monday night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness talked about his HIV positive status while informing the audience about the stigma surrounding it. In a little over three-minutes, in his characteristically sing-song-y, super-quick speaking voice (he could’ve been on Gilmore Girls, he’s that fast), Van Ness credits Planned Parenthood for giving him his diagnosis and the diagnoses of others, contextualizes the current administration’s assault on access to health care, and introduces new medical studies to confirm that with the right medication, HIV positive people can have sex without transmitting the virus to their partner.

Van Ness explained:

“Over the course of the time of Queer Eye was coming out, we had an administration that fired the HIV/AIDS Advisory Council, in 2017, and has launched a systematic attack on Planned Parenthood, which is the place where I had access to testing. Had I not had Planned Parenthood, I wouldn’t have known that I was HIV positive. I didn’t have health insurance at the time and I needed access to testing. As I’ve witnessed this demonization of people who dare to be pregnant or engage in sex, from Planned Parenthood, I was like, I really need to speak about this because we have states in the United States that have new HIV infection rates that are really alarming. It’s so sad because it doesn’t need to be.”

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He continued, defining antiretroviral therapy and serodiscordant couples:

“When people who are HIV positive have access to ATR, or antiretroviral therapy, we’re able to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load. There have been so many studies—the most recent one which was by the National Institute of Health, lead by Dr. Antony Fauci—and it followed a lot of serodiscordant couples, which means one’s negative and one’s positive, for about 10 years, and not one transmission was reported in the study.

Undetectable equals untransmittable, and that has been backed up by a lot of studies. Basically, when you’re HIV positive, you get access to this medication and you become undetectable and then you can live a gorgeous, normal life—fifty to seventy-five years. But the real reason I wanted to talk about it in the book is that when I was 25 and got this, I was not someone who had this platform. I did not have access, financially, that I have now. The amount of hoops that I had to jump through, it was the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, it was Ryan White funding, it was Medi-Cal, it was four, five, six layers of social safety net that I had to navigate as a 25-year-old. And it is just not appropriate. People that are finding out they are HIV positive need a doctor and they need their medication and they need to know that they’re going to have access to their medication forever because we know that when people who are living with HIV maintain their undetectable viral load through ATR therapy, honey, we aren’t contagious forever.”

When is the last time you learned something watching Jimmy Kimmel?

Watch the clip below.

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