For years, fans of Big Brother have wondered why “Evel” Dick Donato abruptly left Season 13 after just a few days. Now, the Season 8 winner has revealed the truth: He had just discovered he was HIV positive. Donato, who appears on the current season of Couples Therapy alongside on-again/off-again girlfriend Stephanie Rogness-Fischer, will make the revelation in Wednesday night’s episode.
Earlier this week, “Evel” Dick Donato told People that he first found out about his HIV diagnosis while competing on Big Brother for the second time. The Season 13 producers called him into the Diary Room and told him that one of his pre-show blood tests had come back positive. The Big Brother doctor then gave him another blood exam that confirmed the news. Donato left the series immediately.
“When they told me, I just went numb,” Donato said of his HIV diagnosis. “They had a car take me from CBS to my mother’s house. She was the first person I told.”
“Evel” Dick Donato is still not sure how he contracted HIV. But, he figures he likely got the illness during unprotected sex with a woman. Rogness-Fischer has tested negative for the illness.
“People are going to make assumptions about how I got it, and that’s okay,” Dick Donato said. “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.”
Thankfully, “Evel” Dick Donato insists his prognosis is good, despite his HIV diagnosis. He is currently taking one pill a day to keep the virus at bay.
“My viral load is virtually undetectable, I'm happy to say. I live a very normal life and don't have a lot of health issues. It also means that it's highly unlikely I could pass the disease along, although I don't have unsafe sex anymore. I fully expect to die of something else when I get old, not HIV or AIDS.”
"Evel" Dick Donato hopes to inspire others to practice safe sex following his HIV diagnosis.
With his HIV under control, “Evel” Dick Donato is focusing on sharing his story with others. He already inspired two Couples Therapy staff members to get tested for the illness, and he hopes to encourage others to do the same. This, plus his desire to stop hiding the truth, is why he has finally decided to reveal his diagnosis and the reason for his Big Brother exit.
“I knew it wasn't a death sentence like it used to be,” Donato said of HIV. “But it has still changed me. I do think about others a lot more now. I'm looking forward to going public with this, because maybe, just maybe, this can be the moment where I do something that really helps other people.”