Van Ness, who came out as non-binary in June but still identifies with he/him pronouns, found out he was HIV positive when he was 25 after fainting while highlighting a client’s hair.
“That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be,” he writes in his memoir.
Now, he describes himself as a proud “member of the beautiful HIV-positive community,” although he admitted to being worried about going public with his status.
“When Queer Eye came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?” Van Ness said. “And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the LGBTQ community thrive around me.’ I do feel the need to talk about this.”
Van Ness also opened up about battling drug addiction, turning to sex work, and surviving sexual abuse – all experiences he describes more in his memoir.
“These are all difficult subjects to talk about on a makeover show about hair and makeup,” he said. “That doesn’t make ‘Queer Eye’ is less valid, but I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed.”