5 Lessons we all must learn from Conchita’s coming out as HIV+

by Michalis Vranis 4,018 views

The 2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Conchita, revealed today that after receiving threats from an ex-boyfriend, she has decided to go public about her HIV status.

It takes tremendous courage to be Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag persona that can’t fit to any category for the average European. That is what Conchita was in 2014 with her successful attempt to represent Austria in the Eurovision Song Contest.

But today marks another milestone for Conchita (aka Tom Neuwirth), as she revealed on a public Instagram post her current HIV+ status. Following this action, Conchita received lots of support and love from her fans and followers around the world.

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!

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Ex-boyfriend threats pushed for the revelation

According to Conchita’s Instagram post, the reason that pushed for this revelation was the threats she received from an ex-boyfriend. We must admit that Tom was very brave to take this step and not allow himself be the victim of a sorrow ex.

Here are 5 lessons that we all can learn from Conchita’s heroic action

  1. Check and protect yourself
    It only takes few minutes to check your HIV status. Look around for the closest anonymous checkpoint. There is always the typical blood check you can have in public and private labs in your area. The use of condoms when having sex is the best form of protection we currently have, but some people choose to use PrEP to protect themselves from the HIV. PrEP pills can be bought online, but are also available in some countries. In the UK PrEP is currently undergoing an NHS trial with Men Who Have Sex With Men and other at risk groups. Condoms are also usually free from most sexual health clinics. You can locate HIV services on this e-atlas of aidsmap.com
  2. If you’re living with HIV, remember you’re Unstoppable so Rise like a Phoenix
    I know that it’s easy to say but the suggestion is to seek for help and support. There are plenty of organisations for HIV positive individuals. We have now got to a point where people living with HIV who are on treatment and have an undetectable viral load, have the same life expectancy as HIV negative people.
  3. Stop the stigma, we can all be Heroes
    Help spread the message that will stop the stigma that HIV positive people are facing.
  4. Educate yourself
    The lack of education is what holds this world back. Learn more about HIV about how it’s being transmitted and treated. Several HIV treatments have been developed the past years to prevent the infection caused by the virus. In Western Europe, the work being done has seen rates of HIV infection fall recently, especially with Men Who Have Sex With Men. Read more here.
  5. Support causes and actions around your area
    Have a look around your area and provide your voluntary help to organisations and your local HIV/Sexual health services. The Life Ball in Vienna is the biggest charity event in Europe supporting people with HIV or AIDS. The event is organized by the nonprofit organization AIDS LIFE, which was founded in 1992 by Gery Keszler and Torgom Petrosian. AIDS LIFE supports aid organizations devoted to helping people who are HIV-positive or have AIDS. The team entrusted with the allocation of funds thoroughly examines each petition. Moreover, it is an explicit goal of AIDS LIFE to raise public awareness.

The gender bending persona, Conchita, has been a public supporter of Life Ball event, as she presented it twice and took part in 2015 as performing act.

[Perrsonal comment from the article author]:
I’m sure the whole Eurovision community supports Conchita and her brave action. Thank you Tom for being a Hero and helping the world move forward.

We would like to thank Martin William Storey for the contribution of the scientific information.