Drag Race UK's Charity Kase opens up about living with HIV in powerful chat on the show

·5-min read
Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

RuPaul's Drag Race UK star Charity Kase has opened up about living with HIV in a powerful conversation on the show.

The contestant emotionally shared her experiences with Kitty Scott-Claus on Thursday's (October 7) episode, sharing that she was diagnosed with the virus when she was 18 and that drag initially started as "therapy" for her.

"I moved to London when I was 17," she explained. "When I was 18, I was having a good time and I was on the scene. Then I ended up contracting HIV. And it was really hard for me to process that at 18. I was still a child, you know what I mean?"

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Charity also explained that she contracted "lots of other STIs" on the same night, saying: "That's really difficult because six years on, I'm still living with the after effects of one night where this guy took advantage of me."

The star said she has faced discrimination on dating apps because of her HIV status, while highlighting the shocking stigma that still exists.

"People message saying like, 'You're diseased, you're disgusting, stay away from me.' Just horrible, nasty comments that are really degrading and mean," she said.

"The trauma of getting diagnosed positive really comes from the stigma of HIV and it's really sad that that's still such a thing.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

"When I was 18 and I was diagnosed, I didn't even really know what HIV was. And the stigma that I felt is, 'You have got a disease and it's dirty, and you should be ashamed.'"

Charity said that the cruelty she has experience has led her to avoid serious relationships too: "I would love a relationship, I would love to feel close with somebody, but I just don't feel capable of putting myself in that place where I'm so vulnerable that like, someone can tear me down over something.

"It's not even to do with HIV, it's to do with feeling lonely, you know what I mean?"

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

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Charity also explained that she takes three tablets a day, lives a normal life expectancy, and is undetectable – meaning she cannot pass on the virus, describing it as a "major, major step towards controlling the virus".

"The stigma hasn't gone anywhere, and unless you have a personal connection with somebody who has that experience, you're not educated around it. It's important that it's taught in schools, and that's why it's important that we talk about it."

Charity has since received huge praise for opening up, Ian Green, CEO of the Terrence Higgins Trust, saying (via Pink News): "It's incredible to see Charity Kase using their platform on RuPaul's Drag Race UK to educate people across the world on HIV and show that a diagnosis doesn't have to stop you from living life to the fullest.

Related: RuPaul's Drag Race UK airs shocking exit twist in week 3

"As Charity explains, we've made so much progress in the fight against HIV – including that people on effective treatment can't pass on the virus and can expect to live just as long as anyone else.

"However, public awareness about HIV hasn't caught up with the medical advancements. Stigma and misconceptions about the virus continue to halt progress and lead people to feel shame, fear and anguish about their diagnosis.

"They're a big part of why people living with HIV are far more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population.

"People like Charity are fundamental in changing negative attitudes towards HIV and tackling stigma. We're thrilled that they are talking openly about the realities of living with HIV today and showing that there is absolutely no place for discrimination in 2021."

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, confirmed Charity had joined calls for the government to fully fund an end to HIV transmission by the year 2030.

Fans on social media have also praised Charity:

RuPaul's Drag Race UK series 3 premieres new episodes on Thursdays, streaming on BBC Three (via iPlayer) in the UK and on WOW Presents Plus in the US.

Organisations including amFAR, Terrence Higgins Trust and the National Aids Trust (NAT) can provide further information on research, testing and treatment for both HIV and AIDS.

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