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Journalist LZ Granderson opens up about being scared to tell people he is HIV positive


(NEW YORK) — ABC News contributor LZ Granderson is revealing his HIV status, discussing which superstar’s mother inspired him to make that call, and talking about the virus’ disproportionate impact on people of color.

According to the most recent data from the CDC, more than 1.2 million Americans are currently living with HIV.

Thanks to modern medicine, preventing and treating the disease is now possible. However, the stigma attached to the virus persists. In a column for the Los Angeles Times, Granderson reveals that he’s been living with HIV for years.

ABC News’ Steve Osunsami sat down for a conversation with Granderson to hear why he’s speaking out now and how the virus disproportionately affects others.

GRANDERSON: I’ve just told, like, my best friend, yesterday. Told some other close friends yesterday.

ABC NEWS LIVE: It’s like coming out all over again.

GRANDERSON: It was a lot like coming out all over again. And I find myself apologizing a lot.


GRANDERSON: Keeping secrets. I am HIV positive and have been for a long time. I used to hide my pills before the housekeeper shows up.


GRANDERSON: In my socks.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You hid your pills in your socks before the housekeeper, because you didn’t want your housekeeper to know?

GRANDERSON: I didn’t want my housekeeper to find out.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You were afraid she would tell someone?

GRANDERSON: I just didn’t want anyone to know.


GRANDERSON: My mom didn’t know. Heaven forbid, I have to tell my producer why I need to go to the drugstore now. You know what I mean? Like, I didn’t want any situation in which anyone will be asking me any questions. Like, why do you need to go to the drugstore right now? There were, there were people dying of AIDS in my environment, in my atmosphere.

ABC NEWS LIVE: That you were hearing?

GRANDERSON: So I definitely didn’t feel like I was in a place where I felt strong enough that I could do all of that, plus that. So I kept it to myself. Plus the, the guilt. You know, try to figure out who was it. Why did you do it? Like all these thoughts in my head?

ABC NEWS LIVE: Were you worried you were going to have to share that with people, or people were going to ask or you would need those answers?

GRANDERSON: I was worried I was going to shine a bad light on my community. And it’s killing all of us, but it’s really killing Black people, and it’s killing Black people because we’re afraid to talk about it. We whisper about it. You have queer Black people who are dying. You have heterosexual Black people who are dying and no one’s talking about it. So if you’re not having a conversation and we’re dying in silence, I don’t see a path of joy coming out of that.

[Granderson discussed how Tina Knowles, mother of singer Beyoncé inspired him to reveal his status.]

GRANDERSON: She flew from wherever Beyoncé was to Birmingham, Alabama, to tell Black journalists to get the word out about this virus that is still killing us and especially Black women. So I’m sitting there. And I’m like, she talking to me? I was like, I have to do my part.

ABC NEWS LIVE: When did you learn that you were HIV positive?

GRANDERSON: So, we were in Grand Rapids. I was with my partner, who’s now my husband, and I was getting my hair done. And I started to get these huge of wave of heat. I started to sweat, and then everything got black. And I woke up in the ambulance. Got to the hospital, I’m all hooked up and everything. And the doctors think I’m having a heart attack.

And so my husband’s rushing to the hospital. And they ran a bunch of tests. And the only thing that came back was that I was positive. The thing that went through my mind was the fact that my son was there in the room. And I remember saying to God, ‘I’m not done yet.’

ABC NEWS LIVE: And you weren’t by any means.

GRANDERSON: It was just about him. I had to take care of him.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Yeah I hear you.

GRANDERSON: That was the only thing I was thinking about.

[Granderson discusses telling his son about his HIV status just weeks before the ABC News interview.]

GRANDERSON: It went really well.


GRANDERSON: First thing he said was, ‘wow.’ And he says ‘I’m proud of you, pops.’ So I’m very grateful that God kept me. So I can get him across that finish line, because, that was the only thing I could think of that day.

My hope in doing this, Steve, really is to encourage people to be the hero in their own lives, especially queer Black men like us. You know, who are afraid of finding out or afraid of people thinking of them as less than.

When you saw me covering Wimbledon, I was HIV positive then. Pretty sure I was looking happy. So we can stop this. We can take care of ourselves. We can live healthy, productive lives. We can’t do any of that if we don’t get past the shame to ask for help.

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