Since Jonathan Van Ness revealed he was living with HIV, the Queer Eye star has been hitting the media circuit to share the message of Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U), the global consensus that when someone’s viral load is suppressed (“undetectable”) it is impossible to transmit HIV to sexual partners.
In his new memoir, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, which is out today, Van Ness mapped out the curvy road that led him to where he is today — a journey that included childhood sexual abuse, depression, drug use, sex addiction, and a positive diagnosis.
In the book, he writes about the moment he found out he had HIV.
Van Ness had been working at a hair salon and ended up fainting while taking care of a client. Soon after, he went to Planned Parenthood for an STI test where he eventually found out his status.
“The first thing I remember asking [the doctor] is: ‘Do you think I still could live to be 75?’ I was 25 at the time," he writes of the follow up appointment. "The doctor chuckled. ‘I’ll keep you alive long enough to die of cancer or a heart attack like everybody else,’ she said. She informed me that HIV treatment has come a long way and it is no longer a terminal illness, but a chronic one that is relatively easily managed with daily medication.”
After just two weeks of being on medication, Van Ness’s HIV was undetectable in his blood.
“Once I was undetectable, I was no longer at risk of infecting anyone,” he explains to readers in the book, adding, “Once I found out I was positive, I never held back my HIV status from my sexual partners. No matter how clunky and no matter how many dates or sexual encounters it meant I wasn’t having.”
The reality star also touches on the fact that for many folks living with HIV, access to care is limited. In a call to action, he encourages those living with HIV to fulfill their dreams — just like he has.
“I take a pill every day now, and I see a doctor every three months, but other than that, I’ve done nothing but get cuter, realize my dreams, look better topless than I’ve ever looked before, and my new figure-skating curves? Don’t even get me started. Postdiagnosis, I’ve accomplished more than many HIV-negative people will ever have the chance to do."
Since coming out, Van Ness has used his platform to educate. Recently, he joined with Planned Parenthood “for the fight to bring affordable sexual health care for everyone,” as he wrote on Instagram.
"I’d been very fearful as a small child," he said this morning on the Today show, referencing his fear of contracting HIV as a young adult. "I was born in 1987 so growing up in the midst of the HIV/AIDS crisis and having two parents who were the age of seeing people [die]. We lost an entire generation of people."
Without a doubt, Van Ness is bashing stigma with his words and activism. While it was difficult to write and share — as it is for anyone who comes out — it's clear that the star is forging a new path. And we're excited to see where it leads.