She’s the queen of Eurovision who has already inspired countless numbers of people around the world. Now, Conchita — aka Tom Neuwirth — has made a move to take back control of her own life. In an Instagram post last night, Conchita shared that she’s been HIV-positive for “many years”.
Conchita’s decision to share this with the public comes under unfortunate circumstances. An ex-boyfriend had threatened to reveal Conchita’s status, effectively using it as a method of blackmail. It’s a terrible throwback to times when HIV carried a much more vicious stigma.
But Conchita took control of her own story, and wrote “I will not give anyone the right to frighten me and influence my life in the future.”
Responses on Conchita’s post have been filled with love and support. Her fans praised the Eurovision star for her bravery, honesty and courage.
Conchita performs at the Life Ball 2015
Conchita has been a long time supporter of the Life Ball in Vienna. It’s the largest charity event in Europe, dedicated to supporting people with HIV and AIDS. That support obviously takes on a new meaning now.
And Conchita clearly hopes that by “going public”, she can help others. In the Instagram post, she says: “I hope to encourage (others) and make a step against the stigmatisation of people who through their own behaviour or through no fault of their own were infected with HIV.”
Her message explains that those who were closest to her — family and friends — were all previously aware of her status. By going public, it allows Conchita to take back control and not have a third party reveal the information.
She’s a social advocate and this is simply the next brave step in her journey.
The message signs off with “I’m well…and I’m stronger, more motivated and liberated than ever”. It’s wonderful news to hear. But it also makes the point of how far HIV treatment has come, compared with the first years of the disease.
As the Terrence Higgins Trust (the UK’s leading HIV charity) explains, it’s now completely possible for HIV-positive people to live just as long as anyone else.
Modern treatment is now so effective that people are often “undetectable”. This means that there is so little of the virus in the body that blood tests cannot detect it. Similarly, studies have shown that people who are undetectable cannot pass the virus on to a HIV-negative partner.
Conchita states she is indeed “under the detection limit” in her post. And in her own words, “the information may be new to you — my status is not”. She’s the same queen that Europe fell in love with in 2014 and her status should never impact that.
You can find more information about HIV & AIDS treatment and services in your country at Aids Action Europe.