Today, more than 1.2 million people are living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – a deadly virus that attacks the immune system. The HIV virus can be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, blood transfusions, and the sharing of hypodermic needles. When left untreated, HIV can become AIDS – the most advanced stage of the virus which leaves you susceptible to cancers and infections that will slowly eat away at your body.
Thanks to the advancements in medicine, as well as greater knowledge, the life expectancy of those living with HIV has drastically increased throughout the years. Back in the ’80s, HIV was a death sentence. Many celebrities, including actor Rock Hudson, tennis pro Arthur Ashe, Freddie Mercury of the band Queen, and Liberace all battled the virus but eventually lost their lives. Today, the average HIV-positive person can expect to live up to the age of 80 years old, an age that is on par with those living without the virus.
HIV does not discriminate based on race, sexual orientation, tax bracket, nor gender, and there are many celebrities who are publicly living their lives as they battle the virus, too. These celebs were strong enough to face the virus head on, and many of them have made it their mission to spread awareness and raise funds to aid HIV and AIDS-related causes.
Keep reading to see our list of 10 celebs who received a dreaded HIV-positive diagnosis, but they are still alive and able to live normal and healthy lives thanks to modern medicine.
10. Jerry Herman
Broadway composer Jerry Herman tested positive for HIV at the age of 54, and he is one of the first to be diagnosed with the virus. At a time when many sufferers were succumbing to the virus, Herman has been able to survive thanks to the help of drug therapies, which were made available in the early ’90s. Now, at the age of 84, Herman is still alive and well. He was just honored with the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater in 2009 for composing Broadway musicals like Hello, Dolly! and Mame.
9. Andy Bell
Andrew Ivan, better known as Andy Bell, is the lead singer of English pop group Erasure. In 1998, Bell was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 34. He kept his diagnosis a secret until 2004, when he broke the news to the public. Since his announcement, Bell has made it his mission to spread awareness of the virus. He has taken part in various charity recordings to raise money for the treatment and research of AIDS and HIV.
8. Greg Louganis
Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis tested HIV-positive when he was just 24 years old. His diagnosis was discovered in 1988, just six months after he won gold medals in tower diving and springboard events. He revealed that he had contracted the virus in his best-selling autobiography, Breaking the Surface. In the book, he spoke of domestic abuse, being raped, smoking and drinking at a young age, and bouts of depression. Later, in a 1995 interview with Oprah Winfrey, he publicly spoke out about being gay and HIV-positive. His story was then turned into a Showtime movie called Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story, starring actor Mario Lopez as the athlete.
7. Chuck Panozzo
Chuck Panozzo, the bassist from the band Styx, surprised fans by revealing he was gay and living with HIV in 2001. Today, he still tours with the band and dedicates most of his free time to educating others about AIDS and HIV, as well as raising awareness for the virus. Panozzo credits his medication for helping to keep him alive, and he was quoted as saying, “My T-cells are up and I keep up with my prescription. I can’t complain.”
6. Danny Pintauro
Danny Pintauro, best known for playing Jonathan Bower on Who’s the Boss, contracted the HIV virus after engaging in oral sex with his infected partner. Pintauro told US magazine he and the man had been practicing safe sex, but a history of drug use, a compromised immune system, and lesions in his mouth were listed as the causes for him contracting the virus. He has since given numerous interviews to speak about his diagnosis, including a 2015 sit down with Oprah Winfrey to retell his 2003 diagnosis. Today, Pintauro is a manager at a Las Vegas restaurant, and he is living happily with his husband, realtor Wil Tabares.
5. Andrew Sullivan
Andrew Sullivan, a journalist and author of the political blog, The Daily Dish, has been very public about his HIV-positive status since 2001. Coming to terms and sharing his diagnosis with the world didn’t come easy. In 2001, it was discovered that Sullivan had posted an anonymous online advertisement looking for unprotected anal sex with “other HIV-positive men.” On top of the scrutiny from the public, he was denied US citizenship for years because of his status. Thus began a long, ten-year battle that finally ended in April 2011 when Sullivan confirmed he had received a green card from the U.S. He has since retired from his blog, but continues to live his life raising awareness for AIDS and HIV, as well as speaking on LGBT issues.
4. Viktor Luna
Project Runway contestant Viktor Luna announced he was HIV-positive in 2013. He made the announcement on-camera to two other contestants of the show. Many viewers wondered why Luna chose that platform to speak his truth, and the designer later penned an open letter citing his desire to finally be himself in front of the world. Luna has gone on to create a popular clothing line, and he actively speaks out about the virus and how it can prevented.
3. Rudy Galindo
Another Olympian to contract the HIV virus is Rudy Galindo – US figure skating champion. Galindo took home the gold medal in 1996, and was crowned the World Junior Champion in 1997. In 2000, at the height of his career, he announced he was HIV-positive. Galindo has seen firsthand how devastating the HIV-virus can be. His skating coaches and his brother died of the virus, so naturally, he was afraid he would suffer the same fate.
When he linked up with a Reno, Nevada HIV and AIDS specialist, his outlook on life completely changed. Galindo realized his coaches and brother acquired HIV during an era when not much was known about the virus. And today, he is able to live a healthy life by taking care of himself, and by diligently taking his medicine. He was quoted as saying, “The medication they’re coming up with is great. I’m learning more about it from my doctors and family. They’re saying you can live a healthy life if you just take care of yourself and take your medicine.”
2. Magic Johnson
One of the most notable celebrities living with HIV is five-time NBA champion, Magic Johnson. In 1991, Johnson shocked the world when he announced he was HIV-positive, and he immediately retired from the game. Sports fans worldwide were left speechless, but they still nominated him to play in the NBA All-Star game. A few players spoke out, and asked that Johnson not take the court at risk of spreading the disease to other players. Remember, this is back when many were still ignorant of the virus and how it was spread. Johnson later returned to the Lakers for the 95-96 season, and he was still able to play at the same level he had before. Today, Johnson is at the helm of the Magic Johnson Foundation, an organization that funds programs addressing HIV and AIDS prevention. He thought HIV would be a death sentence, but his health has continued to thrive. Johnson has been noted as being the one to singlehandedly change the perception of HIV in the U.S.
1. Charlie Sheen
Former Two and a Half Men star, Charlie Sheen, had been haunted by HIV-positive rumors for years. Instead of announcing his diagnosis, he went the route of paying off those who leaked stories to the media. He wasn’t comfortable with revealing his status, and felt that it would severely damage his career. Finally, in November 2015, the actor confirmed he is HIV-positive in a sit down interview with Today show host Matt Lauer. The 50-year-old actor felt that it was finally time to better himself, and to “help a lot of other people.” He hoped that by revealing his status, others would be brave enough to do the same.