Former “Big Brother” Winner Says He Was Kicked Off Show For Being HIV-Positive

EvelDickBig Brother season 8 winner Dick Donato publicly disclosed his HIV+ status today, claiming it was the reason producers forced him out of the house early when he returned to compete in the show’s 13th season.

Donato, better known to fans as Evel Dick, became a Big Brother legend after competing alongside his estranged daughter in season 8. Though he terrorized the entire cast throughout the summer, he eventually won the $500,000 grand prize while sitting beside his daughter in the final two.

When Dick and his daughter returned to compete as a team on season 13, Dick mysteriously vanished from the house after receiving “news” during the first few weeks. Today, Dick reveals that he was forced out of the house by producers, who were the first to inform him of his HIV+ status.

Dick’s public disclosure comes out this week during an episode of VH1’s Couple’s Therapy. In an interview with People, Dick explains how he learned he was HIV+:

Donato was competing on season 13 of Big Brother when producers called him into the house’s Diary Room. “They told me that something was wrong with my blood test,” he says. “They had done two HIV tests. One had come back positive and the other had come back negative.” The show’s doctor took more blood. Two hours later, Donato learned the life-changing news. “When they told me, I just went numb,” he says. With little explanation, Donato left the show.” They had a car take me from CBS to my mother’s house. She was the first person I told.”

Hours after Dick’s disclosure was made public, season 13 winner Rachel Reilly told TMZ she wished Dick had stayed in the house “to give the disease a voice.”

Tweeting in response to her comments, Dick confirmed that he didn’t have a choice of staying in the house:

However, Dick uploaded a video to YouTube after leaving the show in 2011, explaining his reason for leaving. “I had to leave and they understand completely,” he said, adding that “they have contacted me several times since leaving to make sure everything is ok.”

Dick told People that he’s sure he contracted HIV while having sex with a woman. “People are going to make assumptions about how I got it, and that’s okay,” he 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.” 

He continued:

“Being diagnosed is like being blindfolded and spun around 100 times, then being left in a dark room. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out my next steps – the right doctors and medications. I really began to understand how frustrating it could be.”

Dick explains that he kept his status private for three years in order to learn about treatment on his own terms without the media’s attention. He says he’s making it public now to help fight HIV stigma.

“I knew it wasn’t a death sentence like it used to be,” he said. “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.”

Check out Dick’s revelation on Couple’s Therapy below:

Update: A spokesperson for CBS tells us that Dick’s departure from the show was not forced:

“The network and the producers have always respected Dick’s privacy with regard to this medical information, as well as his right to disclose it on his terms, if at all. We applaud his bravery in stepping forward with this disclosure, and his desire to use his personal situation to inform and help others regarding HIV.

Contrary to some reports, Dick was not forced to leave the show once he was informed of the positive test. There was no discussion about his future role on the show. Dick made the decision to leave immediately. It was obvious to everyone that there were medical and personal priorities that were far more important than a television show.”

The post has also been updated to include Dick’s 2011 video.