Into
We're new here. Queer news and culture. For everyone.
Oops! something went wrong. Please try again.
Yay! You're on the list!

In an Instagram post published on Sunday, Thomas Neuwirth, known professionally as Eurovision contest winner Conchita Wurst, came out as HIV positive, saying that she was forced to discuss her status publicly because a former partner was looking to blackmail her.

Wurst said she had not intended to speak publicly about her status.  

heute ist der tag gekommen, mich für den rest meines lebens von einem damoklesschwert zu befreien: ich bin seit vielen jahren hiv-positiv. das ist für die öffentlichkeit eigentlich irrelevant, aber ein ex-freund droht mir, mit dieser privaten information an die öffentlichkeit zu gehen, und ich gebe auch in zukunft niemandem das recht, mir angst zu machen und mein leben derart zu beeinflussen. seit ich die diagnose erhalten habe, bin ich in medizinischer behandlung, und seit vielen jahren unterbrechungsfrei unter der nachweisgrenze, damit also nicht in der lage, den virus weiter zu geben. ich wollte aus mehreren gründen bisher nicht damit an die öffentlichkeit gehen, nur zwei davon will ich hier nennen: der wichtigste war mir meine familie, die seit dem ersten tag bescheid weiss und mich bedingungslos unterstützt hat. ihnen hätte ich die aufmerksamkeit für den hiv-status ihres sohnes, enkels und bruders gerne erspart. genauso wissen meine freunde seit geraumer zeit bescheid und gehen in einer unbefangenheit damit um, die ich jeder und jedem betroffenen wünschen würde. zweitens ist es eine information, die meiner meinung nach hauptsächlich für diejenigen menschen von relevanz ist, mit denen sexueller kontakt infrage kommt. coming out ist besser als von dritten geoutet zu werden. ich hoffe, mut zu machen und einen weiteren schritt zu setzen gegen die stigmatisierung von menschen, die sich durch ihr eigenes verhalten oder aber unverschuldet mit hiv infiziert haben. an meine fans: die information über meinen hiv-status mag neu für euch sein – mein status ist es nicht! es geht mir gesundheitlich gut, und ich bin stärker, motivierter und befreiter denn je. danke für eure unterstützung!

A post shared by conchita (@conchitawurst) on

“An ex-boyfriend is threatening me to go public with this private information,” Wurst wrote on Instagram, “and I will not give anyone the right to frighten me and affect my life in the future.”

Wurst’s original post is in German, though the New York Times did translate some select quotes.

When Wurst came out, she also indicated that he has been in treatment for several years and that her virus is undetectable. The medical community has reached a near consensus that being undetectable means being unable to transmit the virus.

Wurst first rose to fame in 2014 when she won the Eurovision songwriting contest for Austria. It was the country's first victory in the competition since 1966.

While Wurst’s status disclosure and post about her health indicate are an important reminder of what it means to be undetectable, it’s also a sad reminder for the threats of intimate partner violence that people living with HIV often face.

The National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs defines IPV as “a pattern of behavior where one intimate partner coerces, dominates, or isolates another intimate partner to maintain power and control over the partner and the relationship.”

Much of the research regarding HIV-positive people and intimate partner violence often focuses on women in opposite-sex relationships, but the available data about LGBTQ and HIV-affected people reflects Wurst’s reality. According to Anti-Violence Project’s 2015 report on LGBTQ people, HIV and IPV, 13% of LGBTQ and HIV-affect IPV survivors people experienced threats and intimidation like Wurst.

One 2011 study found that, among HIV-positive respondents, 73% had reported either verbal, physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime, while 20% reported current ongoing physical abuse.

People living with HIV often become news stories because of intimate partner violence, as well. In 2012, Cicely Bolden, a black HIV-positive woman living in Texas, garnered national headlines when she was killed by her partner Larry Dunn after she disclosed her status to him. Media reports often cast Bolden’s disclosure as the problem, rather than Dunn’s own stigma.

“She killed me, so I killed her,” Dunn reportedly said in an interview following Bolden’s death at his hands, Huffington Post reported.

Wurst wrote on Instagram that she hopes to “take another step against the stigmatization of people who have become infected by HIV.”

Now, against her will, Wurst must navigate living openly with HIV and the attached stigma. But, it’s important to remember that Wurst’s ex partner would not be able to intimidate him if there were not still such a stigma surrounding the virus and those who have it.


Mathew Rodriguez
Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.