'Big Brother' Winner Dick Donato Makes Shocking HIV Announcement

dick donatoI recently got wrapped into the drama that is Couples Therapy on VH1 and found myself thoroughly annoyed with Dick Donato, aka Evel Dick, who is on the show with his girlfriend Stephanie Rogness-Fischer. He plays up his character well -- he even calls himself an "asshole" and admits he isn't very nice. He isn't. Especially to his girlfriend. They have been on and off for a very long time. Dick famously won Big Brother 8 and mysteriously left season 13.

Now he's dropping a major bombshell regarding his health. He's HIV positive. And it's a secret he's kept for years.

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There are blood tests done on contestants for Big Brother, and it seems that in season 8, back in 2007, Dick was HIV negative. When he signed up to be on season 13 in 2011, his blood test result came back positive, and when they tested it again, negative. So the producers had him re-tested, which in turn revealed that he was HIV positive. That is why he left the show -- at the time, the reason was unclear.

He decided to stay quiet on the matter -- understandable. Health issues are private matters. Even for celebrities. And when he signed up for Couples Therapy, I would guess that he let them know. As much as I hate to admit it, this big reveal may boost ratings for that show, which airs tonight. (Setting my DVR right now.) This also leads to the question everyone wants answered -- did his girlfriend know? Is she also HIV positive? And why is Dick such a [insert his very own name here] to her?

The 51-year-old isn't certain how he contracted HIV. He has never used intravenous drugs. He suspects it's from having unprotected sex. Stephanie does not have HIV.

When they [producers at Big Brother] told me [I was HIV positive], I just went numb. They had a car take me from CBS to my mother's house. She was the first person I told.

My biggest fear was telling my girlfriend. We had this long discussion, and I figured she would freak out. But she was really understanding about the whole thing. She said, 'Whatever happens, we'll face it together.' She was tested and it came back negative. It was an incredible relief.

What an incredible woman who clearly loves him. Come on, Dick. Treat her better! Okay, okay. Maybe he can't. He's just living up to his name. Though I have so much respect for him for talking about his illness and increasing awareness of the disease and the treatment of those who have it. He said:

People are going to make assumptions about how I got it, and that's okay. People are afraid to come forward because they're afraid of the stigma of HIV. I'm not gay and I've never stuck a needle in my arm, but at this point, it doesn't matter. We create a stigma around the disease that makes it hard for people to publicly say they have it.

Look, I get that I'm a reality-show villain. But for better or for worse, I have a platform. And I decided that it was time to just publicly say what I'm dealing with. On one hand, I'm doing this for myself: I don't want to hide anymore. On the other hand, I hope it will remind viewers to get tested, practice safe sex, all those things we know in the back of our minds but maybe don't do. After I told everyone on Couples Therapy, I had two production people pull me aside and say that they had gotten tested. I feel like I can do some good. 

And that he is. For now, Dick takes a pill a day, and he reports that his only side effects are vivid dreams. He practices safe sex with his girlfriend and doesn't believe he will die of HIV or AIDS. What a blessing that modern medicine has come this far where we can stop HIV from progressing to AIDS. We still have far to go for a cure.

What do you think of Dick sharing the news of having HIV?

 

Image via VH1

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