When Jonathan Van Ness was first diagnosed as HIV-positive, he asked his doctor if he would grow old. She laughed.
The 32-year-old Queer Eye star revealed in his new memoir, Over the Top, and in an New York Times interview posted on Saturday that he was told at age 25 that he had the virus. In an cover interview with The Guardian‘s Observer Sunday newspaper, Van Ness said that on the day he was told he was HIV-positive, he asked the doctor if he could still live to be 75.
“She was, like, ‘I will keep you alive long enough to die of a heart attack or cancer like everyone else,’ and then she laughed uncontrollably,” he said.
Im the ’80s and ’90s, the HIV virus, largely transmitted via unprotected sex and which turns to into AIDS barring proper treatment, was considered incurable and a guaranteed early death sentence. Over the past two decades, better drugs have been developed and made available and patients’ outlooks have vastly improved. Van Ness told the Observer that the HIV virus is currently undetectable in his blood.
“It occurred to me: what if everything I’ve ever been through was preparing me for this moment – to be strong enough to share this, and to share it on my own terms,” he said. “Part of that for me is to process what’s happened, but the bigger part is that I wanted to do something to move the conversation forward in a meaningful way around HIV/AIDS, and what it is to live with HIV, and to humanize and normalize a lot of the things I talk about.”
“I’m talking slow because I’m trying not to cry,” he added, getting emotional.
Van Ness also told the outlet he is currently not making time for a relationship, adding, “In the past, I’ve had relationships with people who I was almost using to validate myself and my existence, and that’s not been a great plan for me. So, this is a season of me falling in love with myself all the way.”
Van Ness said in that since testing positive for HIV, he has taken up ice-skating and gymnastics and is looking forward to the U.S. election.
“I absolutely do not think I’d have been as socially aware or conscious or want to make as much of a difference,” he said. “It gave me a reason to really fight.”
Van Ness had told The New York Times, “When Queer Eye came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status? And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the L.G.B.T. community thrive around me. I do feel the need to talk about this.”
After Van Ness made his HIV diagnosis public, his Queer Eye co-stars and other celebs rallied behind him.
“Love you proud of you,” Antoni Porowski wrote.
“LOVE YOU, JACKI,” Tan France said.