Cheddar Gorgeous has been applauded for using her runway look to start discussion about HIV stigma on this week’s episode of Drag Race UK.
The theme of ‘Tickled Pink’ saw the star don a black bodysuit embellished with bright pink triangles, which she explained were inspired by the ACT UP movement – an organisation fighting to end the AIDS epidemic.
Its slogan, ‘Silence = Death’, was branded across the outfit.
The Manchester-based queen explained the significance of the clothing to Dakota Schiffer: “During the HIV/AIDS crisis in the ‘80s, the ACT UP movement took those symbols that were used against us and turned that into a symbol of queer resistance.”
Pixie Polite criticised the inaction of the government at the height of the epidemic, referring to it as “wilful genocide of queer people”.
She continued: “I know so many people … who are in their 50s, and I’m like: ‘Why don’t you have friends of your own age, why do you hang out with all young people?’ and they’re like, ‘Everyone I know died.’ And if we had been born slightly earlier, we would be dead too.”
Cheddar proceeded to reflect on what it was like to grow up in an era when people’s fear of HIV was “intertwined” with homophobia.
“I grew up watching adverts on television of gravestones dropping,” she stated. “I live with that legacy. The idea that sex for me was linked to contagion and death.”
— RuPaul's Drag Race UK (@dragraceukbbc) October 27, 2022
The three queens then discussed how far things have come today, especially thanks to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) – a drug which can stop a person contracting HIV when taken correctly.
“When I started PrEP, the feeling of realising that my sex life was not a death sentence, it had a profound psychological impact on me,” Cheddar told their sisters.
“A HIV positive undetectable person cannot transmit the virus,” they continued. “When you are undetectable, you are untransmissable. We genuinely can eradicate HIV, and with it the stigma of being positive.”
UNDETECTABLE MEANS UNTRANSMITTABLE, TAKING PREP DRASTICALLY REDUCES HIV TRANSMISSION. We have come so far but the work is not yet done. Challenge HIV stigma, dispell shame, show our positive siblings love and respect, get tested and support HIV charities! pic.twitter.com/xosAPdW1Bf
— Cheddar Gorgeous (@CheddarGorgeous) October 28, 2022
The three queens, particularly Cheddar, have received an outpouring of support and praise for educating viewers on something that is still widely stigmatised.
“Thank you Cheddar Gorgeous for your vital message about the Pink Triangle and how governments let us die during the height of the AIDS crisis,” one fan wrote online. “We should never forget. And most importantly, thank you for sharing the message that undetectable=untransmittable re: HIV.”
Another said: “This conversation that @CheddarGorgeous is having right now is hitting me right in the heart. We really need to end the stigma on HIV.”
A third added: First it was charity sharing their HIV journey and now it’s Cheddar talking about the history of the AIDS crisis, what its impact was and how things have changed. This is why queer shows and queer representation is so important.”
See how more viewers reacted below:
first it was charity sharing their hiv journey and now it’s cheddar talking about the history of the aids crisis, what it’s impact was and how things have changed. this is why queer shows and queer representation is so important 🏻 #DragRaceUK
— nat 🦇 (@finelinelister) October 27, 2022
This episode should just be an hour of icon Cheddar having hiv history chats with the queens. I’ve forgotten snatch game already! #dragraceuk
— chawner laughs (@appehmichael) October 27, 2022
— KevinM (@kevinmenotyou) October 27, 2022
Thank you Cheddar Gorgeous for your vital message about the Pink Triangle and how governments let us die during the height of the AIDS crisis. We should never forget. And most importantly, thank you for sharing the message that undetectable=untransmittable re: HIV 🙏🏻 #DragRaceUK pic.twitter.com/zQ9nUXKPAE
— Slayvid Opie 🎃 (@DavidOpie) October 28, 2022
Loving this open HIV chat. EDUCATE THE MASSES!!! #DragRaceUK
— spook tomb-y 💀 (@LukeTwomey_) October 27, 2022
Tonight's Drag Race Sailor Moon Villain of the week goes to Cheddar Gorgeous. Her Pink Triangle design is striking, while paying respect to those lost to HIV. #RuPaulsDragRaceUK #DragRaceUK pic.twitter.com/LnNKz4MoA9
— RuPaul's Drag Race Sailor Moon Villain of the Week (@smvoftheweek) October 28, 2022
That speech on Pink Triangles, HIV and AIDs pandemic and the existing stigma around it, and PREP etc with Dakota and Pixie alone is winner material from Cheddar Gorgeous. Like she done really opened the lecture hall and I could sit there and listen to her for hours. #dragraceuk
— Medvedev's abs 🐙🥨 (@sushil26) October 27, 2022
— jamie. 👑 (@JMRGBY88) October 27, 2022
#PrEP (daily or 2-1-1 on demand) prevents acquisition of #HIV.
When we who live with HIV are on effective treatment there is NO RISK of passing it on to sexual partners – Undetectable means Untransmittable (#UequalsU).#EndHIVStigma
🙏 #DragRaceUK @CheddarGorgeous pic.twitter.com/EwP115CMik
— Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson) October 27, 2022
— Josh the Savage 🇺🇦 (@joshsavage) October 27, 2022
— Matt Weaver (@Matt_Weaver21) October 27, 2022