Jen Juneau
September 28, 2015 9:21 am

For so long, Danny Pintauro was best known for his role on the ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss? Now, he’s taking on a new role as an activist, speaking out about past drug use and his HIV positive status, in order to raise awareness about a disease that’s still thoroughly stigmatized and misunderstood.

On Saturday’s edition of Oprah’s Winfrey’s Oprah: Where Are They Now?, Winfrey sat down to talk with Pintauro, who revealead he has been HIV positive for 12 years.

“There is so much negativity surrounding HIV and just the concept of it, that a lot of people just aren’t comfortable with it,” he said in his candid interview. “They might say they are, but in the back of their mind, they’re terrified of it.”

“And that’s okay,” he continued. “I can’t force them to not be terrified of something. was terrified of it for the longest time. I understand that terror.”

Pintauro contracted the virus sexually during a period where he was experimenting with crystal meth—a drug epidemic he goes on to warn against.

“The meth forces you to lose your inhibitions, so of course you’re going to say, ‘Oh, I don’t need to use a condom,’ or, ‘I’ll be fine this time’ because you’re lost in it. It’s no good, no good,” he explained.

On top of his interview with Winfrey, Pintauro also told PEOPLE that “I am speaking out because I want everyone who continues to ‘tweak’ and party to know that it is not worth the price. I want my community to wake up, stop being complacent and start taking care of each other. We need to be the best we can – safe and healthy.”

Pintauro’s bravery in speaking out about his diagnosis to encourage a sense of normalcy in regards to HIV is immensely inspiring, and reminds us just how serious this associated unfair negative stigma really is. But Pintauro isn’t stopping at interviews — he plans to jump head first into raising awareness about the realities of living with HIV.

“My goal is to literally go door to door making a difference somehow with both of these topics for the next year,” he said.

During his interview, Pintauro honestly addressed the fear of never finding love after his diagnosis. “There’s this awful feeling of, ‘I’m never going to be able to have a good relationship. No one’s ever going to want me,’” he told Oprah. “That was there and that was prevalent. That moment of, ‘Oh God, I’m now going to have to have that conversation every time I meet someone.’”

And he did have that conversation, on his first date with his now husband, Wil Tabares. After the interview aired, the couple posted a sweet photo to Instagram, with the caption: “Last meal as a nobody. 😉 first meal as an activist. #lifelovelive”  

Pintauro joins other amazing voices for this cause including Mykki Blanco and Andrew Pulsipher, whose beautiful family photo this past May challenged the perception of people living with HIV. Through Pintauro’s, Blanco’s, and Pulsipher’s stories and more, we hope the conversation about HIV can continue to flourish in a way that helps reshape the way our society thinks about the disease—both in terms of prevention and what it means to live with the virus.

“If you’re paying any bit of attention, you realize that HIV isn’t a death sentence anymore,” Pintauro added. “That’s one of the ‘beacon of light’ aspects of this whole situation that I want to take on. You can live a healthy life, you can have a happy life.”

(Image via Instagram)

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