The Real World: New Orleans star Danny Roberts is best known for his stint on the MTV series almost 18 years ago, but today he is opening up about his life like never before.
The former MTV reality star told Entertainment Weekly that he is living with HIV.
"The reason I want to share this story is that I spent so long battling and beating myself up for my own misconceptions and bigotry," he said. "It is difficult to admit the negative feelings you had about a set of people and state of being based on made-up stories."
He revealed that he discovered the diagnosis during a phone call with his doctor in 2011. He had woken up in a pool of blood and called his doctor to tell him what happened. His doctor knew Roberts was HIV positive from a recent check-up and was planning on telling him in person, but instead delivered the news then on the phone.
"My first reaction was shock. Then I was angry, then lots of denial. Those early years were very difficult and very lonely. You don't know whom to turn to have conversation and people don't know what to say," Roberts said. "The last thing I ever want is pity. I just want people to know and be aware. I knew so little myself so I get it."
During his time on The Real World, Roberts inadvertently became the poster boy for the movement against the since-overturned "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that banned gay people from openly serving in the military. He was dating a military officer whose face was obscured by MTV so that he wouldn't be discharged like the 1,200 other service members who were that year.
Since his time on MTV, Roberts has retreated from the public eye and now works as a digital design recruiter in New York City, and is a father to an adopted 2-year-old girl.
Roberts said he has been "undetectable" since his diagnosis, which means that the virus is so low that it can't be measured by a blood test and cannot be sexually transmitted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Roberts hailed the recent developments in medicine that have combatted the disease, including a treatment called "PrEP" which has been effective at reducing the spread of HIV.
"Medicines has come so far — it's incredible where we are and where we could be not far in the future," he said, adding that living with HIV is like "having a crappy old cell phone with a huge app eating your energy."
He named Real World co-star Kelley Limp as one of the friends who have supported him through his journey so far. "She's my life sister," he said. "She was one of the first people I turned to and talked to. She has been strong and helped me through this."
With World AIDS Day approaching on Dec. 1, Roberts said he wants to reignite the discussion around the disease and help those diagnosed with HIV to avoid the pain he endured. "I had so many negative feelings I was forced to face," he said. "I've been on such a journey to overcome that. In a way, this has really bene like my second coming out."
After the Entertainment Weekly article published, Roberts took to his Instagram Stories to pay homage to his friends and to the medicine that have helped him survive.
"What I'm really thankful for this year is medicine and a handful of friends who have been rocks in turbulent waters," he wrote. "Without the incredible advances in medicine, I'd likely be gone now. That's a scary reality to face... mortality. Thank you all for the support and outpouring. It really means a lot in a time when the past year felt so dark. Happy thanksgiving!"