Sexy Broadway performer Hernando Umana fills his Instagram feed with shirtless selfies (no shame in that), but this week his followers found an unusually revealing post. Umana disclosed his HIV status—not only in an inspiring story but also through the image: He’s holding a sheet of paper that reads: “Living with HIV.”
“This is by far the most important, scary, liberating post of my life,” the text of his post begins (you can read the full text at the end of this news item). “Here we go- 10 years ago, at a young young age of 20, I was diagnosed with HIV. I’ll never forget the moment they told me. It wasn’t possible- I had only slept with 3 people in my life!”
In his heartfelt post, the School of Rock and Kinky Boots star thanks AIDS activists who made it possible for him to thrive while living with HIV and acknowledges that the battles are not over: “We still have a lot of fighting to do for the people who don’t have the privilege of cost-effective medication.”
In the below Instagram post from earlier this summer, Umana promotes the HIV fundraising event Broadway Bares.
He ends his HIV post with an encouraging message: “To those who are afraid to talk about their status- you’ve got at least one guy right here :) you are LOVED. You are BEAUTIFUL and there is nothing wrong with you.”
Umana took to Twitter to follow up on his Instagram story:
The amount of support I’ve received since I came out with my status has been incredible. To those who are scared to talk about their status... go to my Instagram and see the amount of love coming my way. The world is ready to hear our stories! ❤️❤️❤️— Hernando Umana (@HernandoUmana) August 22, 2018
Exactly what kind of support did he get from Instagram readers? A sea of heart emojis in a rainbow of colors. But also in comments like these:
• tomflay So much love for this. Thank you for sharing your status Hernando. I too am a gay man living with HIV and the love of our community and the stigma surrounding us is something I continue to learn and grow into. We’ll get there!
• gregabates Awesome that you’re taking a stand. I was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 and 1996 had full blown AIDS. With the new meds that have come out it’s now undetectable. Stay strong and be surrounded by people who love you.
• ryanabeck Thank you for being open!! Visibility is so important
• jhollinger4 I’m not sure if you’ll read this, but I am truly touched by your story. My friend directed me to this post because of our similarities. It is almost identical to mine and it’s refreshing to know that as a person you’re/I’m not alone. The stigma behind HIV is harder to live with than the disease. We have been so lucky to have been born in an age where our predecessors were able to fight for our rights and a pill was found to help keep us alive. We are not bad people for having this disease and we have to help end that stigma. Thank you for your courage in speaking out!!
• steven.malicoat Inspiring and very powerful! I learned about my status in 1988. And they told me I had 2 years to live. Well 30 years later, I am still here, have survived cancer, and many other challenges. It’s fantastic that you are willing to be a beacon of hope for all of us and especially those of us who were diagnosed early in the epidemic. Love and light to you! You’re an incredible soul!
• garzarino So proud of you. Poz here since 2004. I thought I would be dead by 40. I’m 41 now and life has gotten so much better. I’m glad I decided to stick around and be truthful about my disease. I still struggle with grief and shame sometimes, but posts like yours make me feel better and stronger enough to keep carrying on! Cheers and good health to you, brother!
Umana noticed the love, and two days after his Instagram post, he tweeted: “The amount of support I’ve received since I came out with my status has been incredible. To those who are scared to talk about their status... go to my Instagram and see the amount of love coming my way. The world is ready to hear our stories!”
And here’s his Instagram HIV story in full:
::takes deep breath:: This is by far the most important, scary, liberating post of my life. Here we go- 10 years ago, at a young young age of 20, I was diagnosed with HIV. I’ll never forget the moment they told me. It wasn’t possible- I had only slept with 3 people in my life! This can’t be true. The first words out of my mouth were “how long do I have to live?” That’s how uneducated I was about it. It had been drilled in my head that gay people get HIV because of wrong doings and they deservingly die from it. Well I’m here to shut that shit down. There is NOTHING wrong with me and I am healthier than I’ve ever been. In the last 10 years I’ve met countless of HIV positive men. Some of these men are so affected by the stigma that they don’t tell a soul about their status, even go as far as not taking their medication. In our extremely privileged community the stigma is more dangerous than the disease. We still have a lot of fighting to do for the people who don’t have the privilege of cost affective medication. So I stand on the shoulders of people like @staleypr who risked his life for us. I stand on the shoulders of the millions of people who had to suffer and die from this disease. I stand on the shoulders of the gay men who were forced out of the closet in such a scary time. These men and woman fought and died to get to where we’re at now- To take a pill at night and never have to worry about dying. To get the disease to a point where it is IMPOSSIBLE to transmit (undetectable).How can I be ashamed of this? I honor their legacy by telling my story. So let’s talk about it. Let’s ask questions. Take your prep. Use condoms. Be SAFE. Let’s end this stigma forever and eventually end HIV forever! To those who have questions- don’t feel dumb asking anything about it. It’s not your fault there’s such a lack of education out there. To those who are afraid to talk about their status- you’ve got at least one guy right here :) you are LOVED. You are BEAUTIFUL and there is nothing wrong with you. I, Hernando Umana, am a proud gay man LIVING with HIV. Fuck that feels good to say. #actup #fightthestigma #endthestigma #hiv #broadway #bcefa #mytruth