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The xx star Oliver Sim shares that he’s been living with HIV since he was 17

"I haven’t written the record to dwell, but rather to free myself of some of the shame," writes Sim on his new track

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; Image: Casper Sejersen/Press

Oliver Sim, bassist and singer for British indie rock band The xx, shared on Monday (23 May) that his new song addresses his experience of being diagnosed with HIV as a 17-year-old.

Thirteen years after the xx’s debut, Sim is putting out his debut solo album Hideous Bastard, on which the track ‘Hideous’ directly addresses Sim’s diagnosis and sees the artist shed shame for self-empowerment.

“I haven’t written the record to dwell, but rather to free myself of some of the shame and fear that I’ve felt for a long time,” Sim, 32, writes in a statement released alongside the new track. 

He continues: “I’ve been living with HIV since I was 17 and it’s played with how I’ve felt towards myself, and how I’ve assumed others have felt towards me, from that age and into my adult life.”

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A post shared by Oliver Sim (@hideousbastard)

Sim states much of making his upcoming album began from a place of “fear and shame” attached to his diagnosis, but after writing ‘Hideous’ he gained the courage to overcome fear and approach difficult conversations with his friends and family – this began with playing ‘Hideous’ to his “protective and wise” mother. 

“Since writing ‘Hideous,’ I’ve spent the past two years having those conversations, which was difficult and uncomfortable to start with, but has allowed me to feel a lot freer and has only strengthened my relationship with myself and with the people in my life,” Sim notes.

‘Smalltown Boy’ singer Jimmy Somerville, a member of the ’80s group Bronski Beat, is featured on a number of tracks from Hideous Bastard and also appears as a glittering alien in the music video for ‘Hideous’ – Sim describes the Scottish singer as a “guardian angel” and praises Somerville for being “such a powerful voice around HIV & AIDS for decades.”

“Been living with H.I.V. since age 17, am I hideous?” Sim sings on the final verse of ‘Hideous’ but in conversation with The New York Times, Sim stresses that “This record isn’t about H.I.V… I know it’s going to be talked about and it will be a defining part of it, but that’s not how I see this record. It’s about shame, it’s about fear and it’s celebratory.”

Sim ends his statement on the new track with a touching and uplifting note: “‘Am I hideous?’ No longer feels like a question I’m asking to the outside world but rather a counter active one for myself. Scary as it still feels, I’m excited to share this music with you and I hope you enjoy it. Lots of love, Oliver xx”

‘Hideous’ is from Oliver Sim’s debut album Hideous Bastard due to be released 9 September and is available to pre-order now.