The iconic drag competition series, RuPaul’s Drag Race is largely known for its shady drama and gagworthy runway looks. But the platform also allows the competing queens to discuss more serious topics.
In the past, the show has tackled issues such as addiction, social justice, and gender inclusivity. But the topic of HIV and AIDS is especially relatable because it is something that can affect the lives of all of us.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, currently affects about 1.2 million people in the U.S. Although there have been many advances in treatment and prevention, and a significant decrease in infections since the height of the epidemic in the 80s, people of color are still disproportionately impacted.
In honor of World AIDS Day, we are reflecting on the brave queens featured on the show who spoke out about their personal experiences with HIV.
Not only did Ongina win over audiences with her charming personality, but she is also remembered for being the first ever queen on the show to share she had been living with HIV.
After the season one MAC Viva Glam Challenge, Ongina broke down in tears after learning she won the challenge. That’s when she delivered the news.
“I’ve always wanted to say [it], but I have been so afraid: I have been living with HIV for the past two years,” sobbed Ongina. RuPaul applauded her and said, “You are an inspiration.”
"It changed my life drastically because it was a weight lifted off my shoulders to be able to finally say it out loud and own it for myself," Ongina said as she recalled the moment with amfAR in 2017. "It also became an inspiration for others to live out loud about being HIV positive. I'm happy to have helped people come to terms, like I did, with their status."
Today, Ongina is still an active advocate for HIV awareness. This year, she teamed up with Positively Fearless to help break down long held stigmas surrounding the virus.
Trinity K Bonet
On the latest episode of @RuPaulsDragRace, @trinitykbonet let’s you into her personal life and we find out she’s team U=U.— Plus Life (@pluslifemedia) July 19, 2021
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During Trinity’s run on season 6 of Drag Race, she opened up to the other queens and fans about living with HIV and the stigma surrounding the diagnosis.
"The thing about me when it comes to sex is my particular community, it's very taboo when it comes to being open and honest about their status," she said. "Being a person who is openly HIV positive, for a long time I was a lot of secrets for a lot of people. But I'm nobody's secret. I'm successful, I got my shit together, I'm good in bed. I'm taking care of myself, I'm undetectable which is untransmittable."
"There's a lot of people out here who are not educated that you can be with someone who is HIV positive if they are undetectable and not catch the virus," she continued.
In 2019 she participated in Slay Stigma, a drag tour across Canada to raise awareness about HIV. She also worked with the organization LetsGetChecked, and has headlined events like Rock The Know on Worlds AIDS Day.
Drag Race UK In a werk room chat with fellow queen Kitty Scott-Claus, Charity explained how she moved to the city when she was 17, and was “having a good time and I was on the scene,” before contracting HIV aged 18. “It was really hard for me to process that at 18. I was still a child, you know what I mean?”
The 24-year-old also revealed that she received messages on dating apps and on social media from people calling her ‘diseased’, ‘dirty’, and telling her to ‘stay away from me.’ Her HIV status being undetectable (her treatment has reduced the viral load in her blood to the extent that it can’t be detected by a test, or passed onto anyone else.)
While Courtney Act’s experience with HIV may be different from others on this list, it is a valid and important one to mention.
In 2016, Act revealed to fans that she had unprotected sex with someone who later found out tested positive for HIV.
“On my behalf, wasn’t a smart decision. I should have taken more precautions and used a condom or other precautions like PrEP.”
She later shared that she tested negative for the virus and that her ex-lover at the time had an undetectable viral load and could not transmit.
Act remains an ally for those with HIV/AIDS and is even a member of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation on a mission to educate what it means to be HIV positive.Our highly anticipated Drag Society X Delta Work curation is shipping now, just in time for the holiday season. Grab it today!