Living With HIV: How Celebrities Are Making a Difference

HIV is a virus that attacks and destroys CD4 cells, which are part of the immune system's defense mechanism. Antiretroviral medication has made HIV a very tolerable illness despite the lack of a cure. A person with HIV receiving treatment consistently may expect to live as long as someone who does not have HIV.

Nonetheless, there is a lot of prejudice towards those who live with HIV, even though we know a lot about the disease. The truth is that everyone, even the world's wealthiest and most renowned individuals, is susceptible to HIV infection.

Magic Johnson

In 1991, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, widely regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time. Johnson's admission that he caught the virus via sexual intercourse with "harems of women" further demonstrated that the pandemic equally threatened people of all sexes, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The Magic Johnson Foundation provides funding and advocacy for HIV-related projects on behalf of the former Los Angeles Laker, the all-time NBA leader in assists, won three NBA MVP Awards, and appeared in nine NBA Finals. More than a quarter of a million individuals have received sexual health education, and the charity has helped introduce HIV testing to adults in 16 major cities.

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe was an advocate for HIV/AIDS education and prevention and a tennis legend. It was in 1983, when Ashe had heart surgery, that he caught HIV from a blood transfusion. After media speculation about his health, he decided to go public with his diagnosis.

During a news conference in 1992, he was cited in The New York Times as stating, "Just as I'm sure everyone in this room has some personal concern he or she would prefer to keep secret, so did we." There was no physical or medical requirement to disclose my condition to the world.

These remarks were made during a pivotal period in the fight to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS when celebrities began to go public with their diagnoses. At 49, Ashe passed away in 1993 due to complications from the disease.

Charlie Sheen

Because of his "crushing migraines," Sheen thought he had a brain tumor, but his doctor ultimately diagnosed him with HIV. Sheen said he spent millions buying off those who threatened to go public with his diagnosis over the following five years. Nevertheless, the actor revealed his diagnosis in an interview with "Today" in 2015.

The actor stated the word, "it's a hard three letters to comprehend," during the interview. In other words, "it's a watershed moment." Sheen has been taking antiviral drugs for quite some time now.

Jonathan Van Ness

The 32-year-old star of the Netflix series Queer Eye claims he was a tormented "baby queen" who went to sex work to support himself. Later in life, Van Ness acquired a severe heroin addiction. In his recently published book, Over the Top, he describes how he fainted in a hair salon shortly after learning he had HIV. In a recent interview, he praised the "wonderful HIV- positive community" and said he felt a part of it despite his illness.

Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson personified the 1950s Hollywood ideal of the straight, manly, macho star. Many people were taken aback by his AIDS diagnosis and subsequent death in 1985. His public relations staff reportedly claimed he had terminal liver cancer before his big reveal. As of July 1985, Hudson was the first high-profile celebrity to publicly acknowledge his diagnosis of AIDS.

A short time later, in October of 1985, at the age of 59, Hudson passed away. The thin Hudson was a shocking change from the chubby matinee hero he had been only a decade before. After his passing, his co-star in the film Giant, Elizabeth Taylor, became an outspoken advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and research funding in the entertainment industry.


Hip-hop artist Eric Lynn Wright, better known as Eazy-E, passed away in Los Angeles a month after being diagnosed with AIDS in 1995.

Before he passed away, Eazy-E issued a last message expressing remorse and his hope that his youthful followers would learn the truth about AIDS. Like many who came before me, I want to resolve my predicament positively to benefit my friends and family back home.

His son, musician Lil Eazy-E, has become a prominent HIV/AIDS campaigner while carrying on his father's musical legacy.

Mykki Blanco

Mykki Blanco, a gender nonconforming artist, came out on Facebook in June 2015, saying they had been HIV positive since 2011 or "my whole career." "Damn stigma and hiding in the dark," their original message wrote.

Blanco has spoken out against national AIDS groups for stereotyping HIV-positive celebrities after she came out. Blanco tweeted in February 2018: "Instead of always exploiting me as a token, it would be fantastic if you would hire me to perform at one of your Galas like you do so many HIV- negative pop singers." Blanco was criticizing amfAR for inviting HIV-negative bisexual singer Halsey to perform at their gala after the organization utilized Blanco to showcase its initiatives around National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness.

Greg Louganis

Gregory Ethimios Louganis, 59, was dubbed "possibly the greatest diver in history" by Rolling Stone and won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics. He also became aware of his HIV status at this time.

At first, Louganis hid his HIV status and treatment with antiretroviral drugs. His health had been failing, so he celebrated his 33rd birthday as if it were his last. Louganis's coming-out film served as the opening ceremony for the 1994 Gay Games. In 1995, he told ABC news anchor Barbara Walters that he had the condition.

He just tied the knot with his longtime companion, Johnny Chaillot, and together they're working to better the lives of people with HIV all across the globe as part of the Human Rights Campaign.


A diagnosis of HIV is potentially life-altering news. But just because you have HIV does not mean you have to die. If HIV patients get and adhere to therapy, they can live long, healthy lives.

In the beginning, there will be a time of readjustment. Individuals who have just been diagnosed may experience a wide range of feelings, from despair and helplessness to fury. Mind your mental well-being. In the early stages of dealing with an HIV diagnosis and beginning to manage your HIV, your mental health care provider may be a valuable resource.

Likewise, it might be instructive to have conversations with others who are also living with HIV. Do not feel alone. If you need assistance locating a nearby HIV support group, speak with your healthcare physician.