In his exclusive new column for Attitude.co.uk, actor Daniel Franzese looks at the media firestorm ignited when his friend Danny Pintauro revealed his HIV status and past meth use to the world...
Last month, Danny Pintauro - the former child star of the long running sitcom Who’s The Boss?
- came forward on Oprah’s Where Are They Now?
to tell the world he's been HIV positive for the past 12 years
He had felt a lot of fear coming forward: knowing he had contracted the virus during his years as a meth user, he felt he would be judged and it took all the courage he had to finally come out.
He said that such drug use was a huge problem in the gay community and something that “nobody was talking about”
Danny is now married to his husband Will and lives a decidedly quiet life as a restaurant manager, but he felt this was a good moment to publicly share his experiences, in order to help other people be safer in their choices and perhaps learn from his story.
I have been casual friends with Danny for over a decade. Back in the day, I was a bouncer at a club night that Danny would go to every week and he was always the kindest and sweetest of people. Just before his Oprah interview, Danny posted a cryptic message on his Facebook page, talking about his meth use and saying he was about to reveal a big secret. I left him a message cheering him on about using his voice to speak out about meth, and assured him that his voice would
Danny told me about his status without realising that I am an ambassador for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). We talked briefly about his fears and intentions and it was clear Danny was excited to move forward in this chapter of his life, completely free and honest about his past in hopes of saving someone from repeating his actions. I gave him the GLAAD media playbook on HIV and AIDS and we talked about how once he went public, I would connect him to ETAF for media training, guidance and so he could join our relentless team of activists to help fight the stigma and meet the needs of the HIV positive community at large.
The news broke. For the first few days, the praise for Danny's bravery and honesty was near-universal. The world builds Danny up: He is helping break stigma, and conversations about HIV have begun in many circles thanks to him.
Before too long, it's a huge media firestorm, landing Danny as the number one trending topic on Facebook and booking him on the fast-track for a global media tour on major television shows like The View.
This is where Danny's train gets derailed a bit. His interviewers on The View
- fellow child stars Raven Symone and Candace Cameron - ask him some personal questions that he's not prepared to answer
and all involved stumble over some incorrect terminology when discussing HIV. Many watching the interview feel Danny was shamed by his interviewers.
First people jump on The View
hosts for shaming Danny, then some LGBT thought leaders direct their feelings of anger and disappointment at Danny himself
My beef is that these leaders write about ending stigma, but instead of writing a private note to Danny offering to advise him, they instead criticise him publicly. Why would anyone with HIV want to come out publicly if that is the consequence?
Yet LGBT leaders agree that only of more and more people come out publicly with their status will stigma be reduced. Publishing open letters, posting on his Facebook, tweeting about him, blogging—whatever the method, I don't think any of this is constructive in fighting HIV stigma. Danny is being publicly shamed by some of the people he is trying to be a voice for.
Daniel Pintauro has committed himself to being a beacon of light in the dark world of meth use, and is willing to speak openly and honestly about his HIV status. For this he should be commended. I urge us all to think before we criticise someone who has good intentions and who gives a voice to an underrepresented community.
Words by DANIEL FRANZESE
– Daniel Franzese is an actor of stage and screen best known for his performances in films like Mean Girls and for ordering pizza at 11pm. Online, his viral videos Please Go Home and Sh*t Italian Moms Say have reached millions of viewers worldwide. Follow him @Whatsupdanny on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr and on YouTube.com/MyMyMyTube. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California where he starred as #EDDIEBEAR on HBO’s LOOKING.
More by Daniel:
We need to educate our allies, not attack them
Has talking about HIV fallen out of fashion?
It's time I came out of the closet: I'm a Christian