Former child star Danny Pintauro has revealed he is HIV-positive.
Pintauro, who grew up in front of an audience as Jonathan Bower on popular 1980s sitcom Who’s The Boss?, told Oprah Winfrey that he has been living with the secret for 12 years.
In an emotional interview aired on Saturday night’s episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, he explained why he is finally ready to speak publicly about his health.
Pintauro, who prefers to be called Daniel now, told Oprah: ‘I wanted to tell you this a long time ago, but I wasn’t ready. I’m ready now, I’m HIV-positive and I have been for 12 years.’
Pintauro revealed that he missed his chance to be a role model for youngsters in his situation when he was outed as gay when he was a college student in 1997.
He said it was Judith Light, who played his on-screen mother Angela on Who’s The Boss? from 1984 until 1992, who convinced him to speak to the press openly after a tabloid reporter approached him and said they would publish an article with or without his involvement.
‘They can’t misquote you, she said. And as long as you give really responsible and mature answers, it can’t be a bad article.
‘Believe it or not, the National Enquirer actually did a really fantastic, heart-warming article about it. I was shocked.’
But the 39-year-old added: ‘I missed the opportunity to be a beacon of light for gay kids who were going through what I was going through. ‘Cause I was outed. It wasn’t by choice.’
Now, he says, he is ready to speak about his diagnosis and wants other men in the gay community to ‘take better care’ of themselves .
‘It’s just a big deal, you know? It’s not something that people are really talking about right now.’
Pintauro revealed he had come out of a long-term relationship when he began experimenting sexually and using crystal meth when he caught the virus.
But he also tested for HIV every six months – and in March 2003, it came back positive.
‘I was living in New York at the time and completely clueless to the idea that I was positive.’
Later in the interview, he added: ‘I was doing crystal meth, which completely ruins your immune system.
‘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. Crystal meth takes away your inhibitions.
‘I was experimenting and believe it or not, I thought I was being safe in that encounter.’
But Pintauro doesn’t remember the man’s name, adding: ‘I regret not knowing that, because that person has completely changed my life.
‘I went in for a regular check-up. As a responsible gay man, you’re getting a test done every six months.
‘You go in and you sort of waited two weeks on pins and needles, or at least I did because I was just terrified of the idea of getting HIV.’
At the time of Pintauro’s diagnosis HIV was not the ‘death sentence’ it used to be due to the introduction of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), which increase the lifespan of people with the infection and limit the risk of them transmitting it to others.
Despite this, he found the biggest struggle was with his feelings.
‘It’s a weird combination of feelings. There’s this awful feeling of ‘I’m never going to be able to have a good relationship, no one’s ever gonna want me.
‘That was there and that was prevalent.’
He added that when he met Wil Tabares, who is now his husband, it was the first piece of information he disclosed.
’It was our first date and we hadn’t even kissed and it was the first thing I told him. The first thing he said was ‘I’m not scared of it at all’.
Now 39, Pintauro lives with Tabares in Las Vegas and works as the manager of a restaurant.
He told Oprah he has now come to terms with his diagnosis and hopes his story can help make a difference to others on the same journey.
‘Back then, it was terrifying and also there was a sense of relief,’ he added.
‘It's backwards. You've spent so much time terrified that you're gonna to get it, and then you have it. You don't have to be terrified anymore.’