"We need to take the stigma away from it," Billy Porter told PEOPLE at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night, when he made history with his win

By Jodi Guglielmi Tomás Mier
September 23, 2019 11:13 AM

Billy Porter is proud of Jonathan Van Ness for opening up about his HIV status.

The Pose star, 50, praised Van Ness for helping break down the negative stigma surrounding the virus after he revealed that he is HIV positive over the weekend.

“Visibility is the point. We need to see what it looks like. We need to take the stigma away from it,” he told PEOPLE at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night. “And so it’s people like Jonathan who allow for the stigma to be taken away.”

In his Emmy-winning role as emcee Pray Tell on Pose, Porter helps tells the story of the predominately LGBTQ ballroom community in New York City in the late ’80s and early ’90s, focusing on their fights for equality against the ravaging HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Billy Porter and Jonathan Van Ness
Leon Bennett/WireImage; Dia Dipasupil/Getty

During the show’s first season, his character tested positive for HIV.

“It’s not HIV porn. You know, it’s not all set as just like our show,” he said. “You know, the point of our show is aspirational. You’re watching people, in the depths of the worst of circumstances, in the most dire of circumstances. Choose life anyway, We all choose life. And that’s what it’s about.”

Porter said he is glad Van Ness spoke his truth.

“I’m happy for Jonathan,” he said. “And I’m happy for the world.”

In his upcoming memoir Over the Top, the Queer Eye star shared is that he tested positive for HIV when he was 25, after fainting while working on a client’s hair, The New York Times reported.

“That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be,” he writes in the book, according to the newspaper.

RELATED: Queer Eye Stars Show Support After Jonathan Van Ness Reveals He’s HIV Positive: ‘Proud of You’

On Saturday, Van Ness, 32, wrote about the Times article and his memoir on Instagram, saying that sharing his story with the world “is the most important opportunity I’ve ever had.”

“The first article about the book came out today from the @nytimes & I’m relieved I can speak fully about the things that shape my experience in life,” wrote Van Ness, whose book is available on Sept. 24. “The book speaks to some extremely difficult times but it’s also filled with my humor, joy and voice & I can’t wait to share it with you fully. Thanks so much for your support so far, it means the world.”

At the Emmys, Porter made history as the first black and openly gay man to win best actor in a drama.

Advertisement