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Drag Race UK’s Charity Kase opens up about being diagnosed with HIV after sexual assault


To mark HIV and AIDS awareness month Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK star Charity Kase – real name Harry Whitfield – tells the Sunday Mirror’s Notebook magazine what it’s really like to live with the virus

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Graham Norton and Michelle Visage star in RuPaul’s Drag Race UK

“I grew up in a small village where there were no other openly gay people…

I never felt like I belonged. When my London boyfriend asked me to live with him at 17 I didn’t think twice. A year later, I was at a party and someone took advantage of me. I became very ill and was tested for STIs at hospital. I was told I had contracted HIV. It felt like my whole world crumbled down around me.”

“I thought the disease was dirty. That’s not true…

I couldn’t get out of bed and didn’t see a way of moving forward. I broke up with my boyfriend after getting into a fight with him and spending a night in a prison cell. It felt like I suddenly had nobody. I was homeless but didn’t want to return to my family home as they were distraught about my diagnosis. When I told my mum over the phone we cried our eyes out, which was traumatising. Luckily an amazing friend, Steven, took me in and I still live with him to this day.”







Charity Kase has been open about having HIV
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She was on Drag Race UK this year
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“I decided to do a 365 day drag challenge to give me something positive to focus on…

It would challenge people to look at a condition perceived as scary and monstrous, and see that there was a deeper meaning and that we should be sympathetic to people with the virus.”

“The stigma around HIV is far worse than the disease itself…

It took me a few months to be okay with my diagnosis. I had the same prejudices as others without even knowing it. Even my friends thought that they could catch the virus by sharing a drink with me. But I take one tablet per day to stay healthy and completely undetectable, so I can’t pass the disease on. I’m thriving in my life everyday – that’s not the narrative we hear about HIV. ”







Charity thinks there needs to be more education around HIV
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Charity in drag
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“It was important for me to talk about my HIV status on TV…

Former rugby player Gareth Thomas is the only person I can think of who is open about it on British TV. Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK was a great opportunity for me to show people you can live a happy and normal life with HIV. I haven’t had sex since the night of the assault, seven years ago. Now I’ve put it all out there, it doesn’t feel like a shameful secret. Hopefully I’ll experience romantic love again one day.”

“I’m happier than ever now…

A family member said, “I told you to be careful”. Contracting a virus is nobody’s fault. The education system needs fixing but I’m not angry anymore. There’s a part of me that’s grateful for what I’ve been through because it shaped me into who I am today.”

* For support, advice and to ask any questions, contact Terrence Higgins Trust’s free helpline THT Direct on 0808 802 1221 or visit tht.org.uk/thtdirect

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