It took 14 years for Tony Enos to truly share beyond his closest circles.
The South Philly resident, who has made a name as a musical pop artist, had been mostly open about his life in music, his indigenous heritage and his homosexual lifestyle. But Enos held on quietly to the fact that he was HIV positive until now.
“I always told myself the universe would tell me when it’d be the right time,” said Enos, 36, who is of Cherokee descent. “And then I started to know and I got a little scared because you have to prepare yourself when you live so guarded because it becomes this huge secret. But by the end of the day, you just get tired of carrying it because secrets keep you sick.”
Enos’s fourth studio album, called “POSI+IVE,” was released on July 1 and is considered a declaration. It helped the songwriter and performer find a way to spread education and awareness, while also coming to grips about being HIV positive. Thanks to better antiviral treatments over the years, most people with HIV in the U.S. today don’t develop AIDS and still live healthy lifestyles.
“It’s important to know that undetectable equals un-transmittable,” Enos said. “If you’re undetectable, you cannot transmit HIV. I’ve been undetectable for 14 years. And I think there’s still a lot of villainizing of HIV-positive people.”
Enos said the overall response to the record has been good and he thinks his message is getting across, but he knows it’s never going to please everyone.
“For the most part, people have responded positively but there’s always that one person who comments on a photo thread that being HIV positive isn’t OK,” he said. “We still have some miles to go.”
Enos, who was born and raised near 5th and Porter streets, jumped into the music scene at an early age, signing his first record deal at age 16. He later created his own label called lil’ T Entertainment, LLC, which has taken his music to a different level. He toured the country and briefly lived in New York, where he appeared on Broadway in plays such as “Ajijaak On Turtle Island.”
“New York was good to me,” Enos said. “I was able to do Broadway and I was able to make a lot of advances in my career. But I don’t like to live in a city where I might forget that life is precious. The social culture there could use a lot more love and a lot more awareness. Ultimately that’s why I moved back.”
Back in South Philly, Enos put his focus back on writing, singing and producing the album “POSI+IVE” with the help of his sister, Vienna Enos, who played a hand in producing the record.
“She’s my other creative half,” Enos said. “She was a co-vocal producer on this record. It’s a job to sit there and make sure everything is on pitch. She’s like my right arm, and I don’t know what I would do without her.”
She was also there to help with the filming of the video for Tony’s new single of the same name. It gave a visual of Enos’s struggle to finally go public being HIV positive, and he used the famous fictional underdog movie character “Rocky” as a metaphor for his fight. He filmed his video in South Philadelphia, running through the Italian Market, and recorded scenes by the Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps.
“I love Rocky, and if the movie marathon comes on TV, I’m watching all of them,” Enos said with a laugh. “If you grow up in Philly, he becomes that and it’s interesting to go to the art museum steps and it’s his spirit and place where you identify with him. He’s that Philly grind and that Philly fight. Having HIV was something I fought with for a long time.”
Last month, Enos performed virtually at AIDS 2020 — The 23rd International AIDS Conference. He plans to tour colleges and universities once classes and concerts return to normalcy. His continuing goal is to be an example for others who may be trying to find the right time to make their own announcement.
“I feel like, maybe, people live vicariously through me,” Enos said. “They think if Tony is doing that, then maybe they feel safer to do the same and be themselves. I just wanted to be in service in some way.”
“POSI+IVE,” is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and other digital music platforms.
Visit Tony Enos online at www.tonyenosmusic.com.