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HIV Activist Jonathan Van Ness’s U=U Message

jonathan van ness

Since Jonathan Van Ness revealed he was living with HIV, the Queer Eye star has been hitting the media circuit to share the message that undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U), a global consensus that when someone’s viral load is suppressed to undetectable levels it is impossible to transmit HIV to sexual partners.

In his new memoir, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, Van Ness mapped out an odyssey that included childhood sexual abuse, depression, drug use, sex addiction, and a positive diagnosis.

“I’d been very fearful as a small child,” he admitted recently on the Today show, referencing his anxiety about contracting HIV as a youth. “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.”

In his memoir, Van Ness recalls working at a hair salon and fainting while taking care of a client. Soon after, he went to Planned Parenthood for an STI test where he eventually learned his positive HIV 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 he had been on medication just two weeks, 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.”

In the book, the reality star touches on the fact that for many folks living with HIV, access to care is limited. Since coming out publicly, Van Ness has continued using 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.

Van Ness 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.”

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