News: ‘Queer Eye’ Star Jonathan Van Ness Comes Out as HIV Positive

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“You’re never too broken to be fixed.” This is Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness’s message to everyone which he shared through an exclusive interview with The New York Times ahead of his memoir’s release.

In the same interview, Van Ness talked about his life experiences, ones he personally feel he needed to talk about even if they were really difficult. His HIV status for instance because, he explained, “The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the L.G.B.T. community thrive around me.”

Van Ness says he is an “out-and-proud ‘member of the beautiful H.I.V.-positive community,'” and he hopes that with his memoir, he could bring attention to “misperceptions about being H.I.V. positive.” Further, the 32-year-old reality star talked about many painful memories, like how he was “abused by an older boy from church, during what was supposed to be a make-believe play session” when he was “much younger.” He said: 

<blockquote>”For a lot of people who are survivors of sexual assault at a young age, we have a lot of compounded trauma.”</blockquote>

The result of that trauma is many years of struggles, ones that involved self-destructive behaviors like meeting up with older men for sex, getting hooked on cocaine as a college student, and he even “advertised sex for money.” After flunking out of college, Van Ness went home and took up a beautician course at the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis. 

Van Ness obtained his certificate allowing him to work at various salons but his “addiction to sex and drug got worse” and he even started “smoking methamphetamine.” It all came to a head when he fainted while working, prompting him to get tested. The result, he said, came back positive for HIV. 

He was 25.

It was the wake-up call Van Ness needed. He turned his life around, “cleaned up his act,” and it was around this time when opportunities from the entertainment industry came knocking at his door. 

Today, Van Ness is best-known for his reality television series with Netflix titled Queer Eye. He also appeared at Taylor Swift’s music video for her song “You Need to Calm Down” last June along with his costars Tan Frances, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, and Bobby Berk in Queer Eye. Read The New York Times interview with Van Ness in full here.

Van Ness’ memoir—titled Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love—is set for release this September 24.

There are 16 comments

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  1. N.Z.H.


    Allow me to write this:

    In 2019, there is absolutely, positively, no reason, whatsoever, to be infected with HIV. I know that things happen and persons do become infected, but in The Gay Community who banded together to demand acknowledgement, management, cure and ultimately, de-stigmatization, should be the least ones to become infected.

    HIV is well-studied and well-known…as are the routes of infectivity, no Gay Male, with any amount of intelligence and education should practice any such behavior to become infected.

    I understand dealing with it should be logical but espousing a semblance of pride for having it, beguiles the sense of responsibility and casts a pall over The Gay Community, in 2019, and espouses what society still feels that we are detrimental to ourselves.

    Pride isn’t important after-the-fact; pride is important before-the-fact: embracing intelligence and moderation to ensuring health and well-being.

    • Eric Neal

      He was infected 7 years ago, well before the widespread availability of PrEP. And like many gay men, he was traumatized by sexual assault and growing up gay in a culture where being is seen as filthy, sinful and deserving of death. So he made some bad choices, but did the difficult work of recovery. Props to him! Second, you suggest that every gay man should have the perfect reason, caution and diligence to use condoms with with absolutely every sex act, with the good fortune to never have them fail. This is a standard that few achieve. Sex and love do not adhere strictly to the rules of perfect prophylaxis–passion and pleasure have a way with even the smartest and proudest men. And this standard is never demanded of heterosexual couples.

      • N.Z.H.

        ERIC NEAL:

        There was no moralizing or brow-beating contained in my comment. I worked in the medical field for 35+ years and I began talking care of infected persons beginning 1981- 1982.

        I wrote about the usage of common sense not the attainment of infallibility. Hiv is preventable, in virtually every manner and form.

        It is 2019 and we all know…straight & gay. There was/is no double standard within my comment but I did write in context of an A4A Blog.

  2. Steven Kerry

    He’s 32 and already writing his “memoir”? Strike while the iron’s hot! Seems like a nice guy, but the whole show and his personal image could easily be considered milking very tired old gay stereotypes. Television in particular is a repository of gay male stereotypes worked to the hilt because these are the images that the masses are comfortable with. Blacks were once supposed to always be nannies or butlers serving white people, ever the wise nurtures to their privileged owners. Gay males are more or less in the same position now on television and in movies although some of them would vehemently deny it (the money and fame justifies all the flouncing and mincing, etc) There is a reason you don’t see many masculine, naturally manly gay men on t.v. Too sexy, and the masses prefer their gay men great at critiquing dresses or decorating apartments or in drag but otherwise sex-less. They prefer we be “witty” and “amusing”, and oh…did I say effeminate? Because that’s the stale image of gay men they are comfy with. We are cool with them as long as we are either clowns (the drag race phenomenon), the “flamboyant” arbiters of good taste and clever wit (Queer Eye), or nerdish dry wits a la modern day Paul Lynde (as in such shows with air-brushed gay context as Big Bang Theory). These are the “acceptable” images of gay men for television shows selling teeth whiteners, laundry detergent, and Toyotas.

    • N.Z.H.


      I agree with you; Gays have become mainstream, entirely too familiar and now, stereotypes. However, when Gays put themselves into roles which typify stereotypes, they reinforce the images that mainstream America sees and becomes the “norm.”

      The problem isn’t American Society, per se; it is the typical Gay who will practice self-deprecating behavior and who will go along with whatever pays the bills, get recognition and ultimately, give Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame,” a modicum of truth.

      Pride is inert but is shaped by the culture in which a person exists. Apparently, Johnathan has yet to learn this and so, he set himself up as a person who is, now, forced to exemplify the adage: “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Make Lemonade,” he makes it derogatory

  3. Friar Chicken

    What a self-serving disgusting thing to do. There’s no excuse for his carelessness. He is no role model. I hope he is removed from television.

  4. David Morris

    Hi Mr Van Ness,
    You always have a positive attitude and I know it takes a lot of work from my own experience. I was diagnosed in 1982 and I learned that the mind and body are so intertwined.
    I wish you only good things topped with happiness.

    Feel free to e mail me if it gets tough. We can always appreciate a friend in a similar situation.
    I will be sending you positive energy and you have enough to brighten the world.
    Dave Morris

    • Dave

      nobody is asking to be “proud” of anyone…
      everybody is different, everybody has his own story…
      and FYI you don’t determine who is part or not of OUR community.

  5. marc

    What I got from this story is that there is always an opportunity to turn ones life around. It looks like his life started out complicated regardless of being gay. Poor choices led to his hiv status, but he isn’t allowing himself to be persecuted because of it. He picked himself up and created a happy life for himself. I think considering the obstacles and him overcoming them should be inspiring for anyone who feels that he can’t succeed in finding peace in his life. Also it is easy for someone to say that people shouldn’t being getting hiv anymore. Logically, that is true. It still happens. The same argument can be made for smoking tobacco. There is no scientific evidence that it is good for the body. In fact there is plenty of evidence how harmful it is, yet educated people still smoke. They smoke and still get tobacco-related illnesses like cancer. Some people are going to do what they want with there bodies no matter what information is out there and will take the risk? But as for Mr. Van Ness, I’m happy he is doing well and able to tell a “comeback” story.

  6. Richard King

    very brave and encourageing thing to do ,its so difficult to come out these days people put you down, tell gay jokes which I hate.anytime youd like to write me do so can not have enough friends .

  7. David

    Who writes and then moderates comments? Your piece should speak for itself. You should then stay out of these comments. Why are you defending what you write? Who moderates you? Why should we contribute anything if you are able to get the final say in a comments section. You’ve written what you have to say. Stay out of it when you are done. This is ridiculous.

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