Former Skin Wars contestant and out artist Michael Mejia says in a new interview with gay glossy The Advocate that fear of HIV keeps people from getting tested and sharing their status.

Last month, Mejia, 26, revealed that he's living with HIV, telling Plus magazine that coping with the stigma of HIV has been more difficult than accepting the diagnosis.

“It certainly has been difficult,” he told The Advocate. “My initial reaction was fear. I thought I would be ill for the rest of my life and die from it. Fortunately, we are in an era of incredible scientific advancement where HIV is now a manageable condition that people can live with, continue to be healthy, and live a normal life span without complications. The difficult part about being HIV-positive hasn’t been accepting the diagnosis, but coping with the absurd amount of stigma that comes along with it. Everyone is full of fear when they think of HIV and it’s because of ignorance. This fear is holding people back from getting tested regularly and keeping HIV-positive people from sharing their status. We need to end HIV stigma because stigma is the real illness we should be alarmed by.”

He added that he decided to come out because he knows “there are many people out there that have been recently diagnosed and may feel alone.”

Mejia made it to the top four on the third season of Game Show Network's body painting reality competition Skin Wars.