Monday 16 July 2018

'I thought I was going to be dead in a few years but I'm as healthy as a horse' - Rory O'Neill on living with HIV for 20 years

Panti Bliss was a guest on Tommy Tiernan's first 2FM show
Panti Bliss was a guest on Tommy Tiernan's first 2FM show

Rory O'Neill has revealed he's as 'healthy as a horse' twenty years after being diagnosed with HIV.

The 45-year-old star behind Ireland's favourite drag queen, Panti Bliss, has had a momentous year between Pantigate, Panti's Noble Call in April and the People of the Year award.

And later this year Panti will feature in the film The Queen of Ireland which will chart her return to her home town of Ballinrobe in Mayo.

However, when Rory was diagnosed with HIV he thought it was a "death sentence" and never expected to live longer than a few years or achieve what he, and Panti, have in recent years.

"When I was diagnosed it was a death sentence," he told the Sunday World Magazine+, "I wasn't expecting it.  I had been generally feeling unwell so I went to the doctor.  It was a real shock.

"I knew lots of people who had been sick and who had died, so I was very clear about what it all meant.

"I didn't feel it or understand it all back then, but around the time I was diagnosed there were early versions of treatments being tested. Very soon after, you would start to hear about new treatments.  It took time but I feel i was very lucky to have been diagnosed when i was."

Speaking about advancements in modern treatments, he said, "Things just improve all the time now.  You just get on with life.  I'm super-thrilled about how it has all turned out.  I take one tablet a day, and that's it, I just carry on.  I'm as healthy as a horse. 

"And I'm not infectious which, psychologically is a big one.  I get a lift off that too, and I just feel normal."

Rory describes how his attitude has changed in the intervening years.

"I thought I was going to be dead in a few years, which makes you live your life slightly differently.  For example, I was always terrible for paying my taxes.  I thought: 'I'll be long dead before they come looking for anything.  I'm never going to start a pension.'  Then all that changes."

Rory's favourite part of filming The Queen of Ireland was Panti's return to Ballinrobe for a special performance one week after the marriage referendum. 

"If, 10 years ago, you had told me that something like that would happen I'd have said you were nuts."

Panti Bliss - crowned as the High Queen of Ireland


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