The former child star Danny Pintauro has revealed he has been living with HIV for 12 years.
Pintauro grew up on American television screens playing Jonathan Bower on the sitcom Who’s the Boss, his only major acting role. He came out as gay in 1997 after he claimed media organisations threatened to out him publicly.
The 39-year-old revealed he was HIV positive when he appeared on Oprah's Where Are They Now? show on Saturday evening.
Pintauro, who married his partner last year, was visibly emotional as he described the impact his diagnosis in 2003 had on him.
"There's this awful feeling of 'I'm never going to be able to have a good relationship, no one's every going to want me,'" he said through tears. "That was there and that was prevalent. You know, that moment of 'Oh God, I'm now going to have that conversation every time I meet someone. Who's going to want to love me?’
"When I first came out, which was before everybody - I mean, Ellen and I came out the same year. Rosie came out four years after I did - I missed the opportunity to be a beacon of light for gay kids who were going through what I was going through."
After coming out and struggling to find work, Pintauro started abusing the drug crystal meth as he explored his homosexuality.
"I was doing crystal meth, which completely ruins your immune system, he explained. "I'd been doing it at that point very briefly, but it was three weeks or so, off and on. I had just come out of a two-year relationship, and I discovered in that relationship that there was more I wanted to explore sexually.”
Pintauro, who now manages a restaurant in Los Angeles, stopped using the drug regularly in 2005. He told Oprah he was finally ready to speak publicly about his diagnosis because he wants to destigmatise HIV among gay men.
Pintauro has received a wave of encouragement and support for sharing his story after living in relative anonymity for over a decade.
By undertaking his new role as an activist, he hopes his story will inspire other gay men to be more proactive about protecting their sexual health.
"What I want my community to realise is we need to take better care of ourselves,” he added.
"I've never really been an activist. I was always, like, one step above neutral when it came to any topic over the years. And I feel like that's partly why I'm so fired up – because I have a lot of time to make up for."
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