“Evel” Dick Donato, a “Big Brother” legend who won Season 8 and appeared again on Season 13, has revealed he is HIV positive. Donato will reveal his diagnosis on Wednesday’s (Oct. 1) episode of VH1’s “Couples Therapy.”
The initial diagnosis came in 2011, during Donato’s second appearance on “Big Brother.” At the time, he left Season 13 for an unspecified emergency, telling viewers via an online video, “I was summoned the Diary Room and the producers gave me some bad news
about somebody I was very close with. … It was an emergency that required my immediate attention.”
Donato tells People that the “Big Brother” medical team had done two HIV tests on his blood, one that came back positive and one that came back negative. They asked him into the Diary Room to draw more blood so that another test could be run, which came back positive. He immediately left the show to tell his mother and his girlfriend.
His girlfriend at the time, Amy Benallo, tested negative for HIV, which Donato calls “an incredible relief.” She is not the girlfriend who currently appears with Donato on “Couples Therapy.”
Donato adds that he believes he contracted the virus during unprotected heterosexual intercourse. “People
are going to make assumptions about how I got it, and that’s OK. 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.”
But Donato has decided to go public because “for better or for worse, [he has] a platform” as a reality-show villain. “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,” says Donato.
The prognosis for Donato looks good. He says he takes one pill a day and fully expects “to die of something else” when he gets old, as HIV is not the death sentence it used to be.
“Couples Therapy” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on VH1.