Season three of "Drag Race UK" has been groundbreaking. This season had the first cis female, Victoria Scone, compete in the series, and Charity Kase became the first drag queen on the United Kingdom edition of the show to come out as HIV-positive. The only other queens to announce they are HIV-positive were from the U.S. version of RuPaul's franchise: Ongina and Trinity K. Bonet.
In a heartfelt conversation on the show with fellow contestant Kitty Scott-Claus, Kase revealed she started drag as a way to express her emotions.
"It was my therapy for a while. I went through a really dark time," she said.
Kase contracted HIV at the age of 18, shortly after she moved to London. The drag queen admitted the diagnosis was difficult for her to process at such a young age.
"I was still a child," she said.
The consequences of this one night when she was 18—during which she contracted HIV and "lots of other STIs"—still follow her to this day. A man took advantage of her, and now, six years later, she is still dealing with the stigma of the diseases she contracted.
On dating apps, the performer faces painful discrimination. She said potential matches tell her, "You're diseased. You're disgusting. Stay away from me."
Kase told Scott-Claus, "The trauma of getting diagnosed positive really comes from the stigma of HIV. It's sad that it's still such a thing."
As a result of these negative experiences, Kase has shut herself off from relationships.
"I would love a relationship. I would love to feel close to somebody. But I just don't feel capable of putting myself in that place where I'm so vulnerable that someone can tear me down over something," she said.
The queen said it's not the diagnosis of HIV itself that impacts her most, but the loneliness she has experienced since. What's frustrating for Kase is the stigma of HIV is not backed by science. Her medication protects her from spreading the disease.
"I take three tablets a day and I live a normal life expectancy. I am undetectable, which means the virus cannot be passed on from me," she said during the episode.
She knows how privileged she is to have this treatment, acknowledging it represents a major step toward controlling the spread of the virus.
In light of these struggles, the queen has enormous gratitude for drag.
"Drag was a massive, massive help for me in coping with these emotions," Kase said. "Becoming Charity was definitely a sort of therapy for me. It was a way to express myself while also celebrating the beauty of darkness."
The drag performer admits she wouldn't change her experiences for the world, because she is proud of who she is today.
"I am comfortable with what I do and who I am, and that is why I am so passionate about my drag and why I put my all into it and why I spend every moment of every day creating something—to distract myself from the dark places I've been to and the dark places that I can still go to," Kase said on the show.
After the incredible @thecharitykase spoke openly and honestly about the impact of their HIV diagnosis, we’ve asked community sexual and reproductive health doctor Annabel Sowemimo (@SoSowemimo) to give us some facts about HIV.#DragRaceUK pic.twitter.com/qG6WLc9S2t— RuPaul's Drag Race UK (@dragraceukbbc) October 7, 2021
Ultimately, Kase wants to see more educational efforts regarding the virus.
"The stigma hasn't gone anywhere, and unless you have a personal connection with somebody who has that experience, you're not educated around it," she said. "It's important that it's taught in schools and it's important that we talk about it."
To watch the next episode of "Drag Race UK" and follow Kase's journey, tune in Thursdays at 7pm BST on BBC Three.
For more information on HIV, click here.