As part of a “journey” he likens to a “second coming out,” Danny Roberts is opening up about his HIV diagnosis for the first time.
“The Real World: New Orleans” star, who is openly gay, told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published Tuesday that he’s been living with HIV since 2011.
“The reason I want to share this story is that I spent so long battling and beating myself up for my own misconceptions and bigotry,” he said. “It is difficult to admit the negative feelings you had about a set of people and state of being based on made-up stories.”
Now 41, the Georgia native now lives in New York, where he works as a digital design recruiter and has a 2-year-old daughter, Naiya Sage. He told EW he experienced shock, followed by a period of denial, after his doctor told him he was HIV-positive.
“Those early years were very difficult and very lonely. You don’t know whom to turn to have conversation and people don’t know what to say. It’s not something that people have experience with,” he recalled. “There’s also the potential likelihood of massive judgments about what behaviors led to this and what kind of people this happens to.”
“The last thing I ever want is pity,” he said.
Roberts rocketed to fame in 2000 as one of seven strangers chosen to have their day-to-day lives documented for the ninth season of MTV’s “The Real World.” At the time, he was dating Paul Dill, a U.S. Army captain whose face had to be obscured on camera because of the military’s since-repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans from serving openly in the military.
In his EW interview, Roberts specified he was “undetectable,” meaning that he’s controlled the virus after undergoing antiretroviral therapy and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is effectively unable to transmit it to an unaffected partner.
Likening living with HIV to “having a crappy old cell phone with a huge app eating your energy,” he thanked his “Real World: New Orleans” co-star, Kelley Limp, for helping him work through his emotions. “She’s my life sister,” he said of Limp, who is married to “Party of Five” and “Everwood” star Scott Wolf. “She was one of the first people I turned to and talked to.”
His only goal in coming forward now, he said, is to reignite discussion about the virus.
“I had so many negative feelings I was forced to face,” he said.
Last month, MTV announced plans for a “re-imagined” version of “The Real World,” to debut on Facebook Watch next year.