In a werk room chat with fellow contestant Kitty Scott-Claus, the east London drag artist explained how she moved to the city when she was 17, and was “having a good time and I was on the scene,” before contracting HIV aged 18. “It was really hard for me to process that at 18. I was still a child, you know what I mean?”
She added: “The trauma of getting diagnosed positive really comes from the stigma of HIV, and it’s really sad that that’s still such a thing. When I was 18 and I was diagnosed, I didn’t even really know what HIV was. And the stigma that I felt is, ‘You have a disease and it’s dirty, and you should be ashamed.’”
The 24-year-old revealed that she’d received messages on dating apps and on social media from people calling her ‘diseased’, ‘dirty’, and telling her to ‘stay away from me’ – despite her HIV status being undetectable (her treatment has reduced the viral load in her blood to the extent that it can’t be detected by a test, or passed onto anyone else). She told the BBC that people had worried about sharing drinks with her, even though HIV can’t be transmitted by saliva.
Opening up about the circumstances in which she’d contracted it, the season three queen explained she caught “lots of other STIs” on the same night. “That’s really difficult because, six years on, I’m still living with the after effects of one night where this guy took advantage of me,” she said.
Visibly emotional, Charity disclosed how her diagnosis had held her back from dating. “I would love a relationship, I would love to feel close with somebody, but I just don’t feel capable of putting myself in that place where I’m so vulnerable that like, someone can tear me down over something,” she said. “It’s not even to do with HIV, it’s to do with feeling lonely, you know what I mean?”
Posting on Instagram after the episode aired, Charity spoke about the need for combating stigma through education, encouraging her fans to write to Rishi Sunak and ensure that ministers publish the HIV Action Plan they’d promised and commit money to it. “We have got the chance now to end new HIV cases in the UK by 2030 and that is incredible. But to make that happen, the government and more specifically the chancellor have to follow through on their commitment and put their money where their mouth is in the spending review this month.
“You have the power to make a difference in this fight. Take action yourself and write an email to the Chancellor, check out the Terrence Higgins Trust website for an email template and more information on this.”