HIV is directly associated with AIDS and for a long time it was considered fatal in most cases. However, thanks to medical advances and prescription medications, it can be controlled to a significant extent, allowing those individuals with this serious immunity destroying virus to live normal, healthy lives.
There are probably far more celebrities than we know who have been diagnosed with HIV, but there continues to be a certain stigma attached to it that can cause some to shy away from being open about their disease. HIV doesn’t define a person, but there may be numerous questions or even assumptions about how they contracted it, whether it was through unprotected sex, a blood transfusion, or drug use.
Some great celebrities through the years revealed their diagnosis shortly before they passed away or it was revealed after their death. Being more aware of this serious and preventable disease is one of the reasons several of the people on this list admitted to their disease.
Below are 20 such celebrities whom we know contracted HIV.
20. Timothy Patrick Murphy
When people talk about the television show Dallas, they may very easily recognize Timothy Patrick Murphy. He was on that show during the 1980s, when it was at its peak of popularity, but he died in 1988 as the result of AIDS-related complications. It wasn’t clear how he had contracted the disease, but there was strong speculation that he had been gay. He was missed on this show by the millions of fans who followed the nighttime soap opera.
19. Amanda Blake
Amanda Blake was a beloved actress best known for her role in the western television series Gunsmoke. She died in 1989 as a result of complications from having AIDS. She was 60 years old at the time of her death and it wasn’t made public about how she might have contracted this disease, although the common belief is that she contracted the disease from her husband Mark Spaeth who passed away in 1985. Blake had also suffered from oral cancer due to heavy smoking and became a supporter of the American Cancer Society.
18. Kevin Peter Hall
Many people might not recognize this mild mannered actor, but they would certainly know the title character he played in the movie Predator. Under an intense costume and loads of makeup, Kevin Peter Hall was just as large in life as his alien character that had hunted down Arnold Schwarzenegger and his comrades. He died in 1991 from pneumonia that had been the result of AIDS. It turned out that he had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion.
17. Gene Anthony Ray
Many people who grew up watching the movie Fame will recognize Gene Anthony Ray immediately. One of the most beloved characters from the film, Gene Anthony Ray was an accomplished actor and dancer, having studied the crafts for most of his life. He brought depth and vibrancy to his roles and had an infectious love of dance. He died at the age of 41 from a stroke and afterward his mother admitted he had been living with HIV.
16. Howard Rollins
Best known for his work in Ragtime, Howard Rollins was a successful African American actor who had charm and grace on and off the screen. He died in 1996 as the result of lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, but it also was revealed that he had been living with HIV at the time. There was no official word about whether HIV had any impact on his health or what role it might have played in the lymphoma or how his body tried to fight the cancer.
15. Robbin Crosby
The guitarist for the heavy metal rock group Ratt, Robbin Crosby passed away in 2002 as the result of a drug overdose, but it was revealed that he had been diagnosed as HIV positive. There wasn’t a lot of information released to the public about his disease or how he contracted it, but there was speculation that it might have been through drug use as he was a regular heroin user and sharing dirty needles is one of the more common ways people have contracted numerous diseases, including HIV.
14. Jerry Smith
For American football fans, Jerry Smith was a former NFL player who had been a star at Arizona State University. He went on to have a strong and successful career with the Washington Redskins. When he passed away in 1986, during the heart of the period of fear and misunderstanding about AIDS, he was actually the first professional athlete to die of this disease.
13. Chuck Panozzo
Fans of the rock band Styx will easily recognize Chuck Panozzo, the legendary bass player for this iconic group. For these fans and more, it was quite a surprise when he announced in 2001 that he had been diagnosed with HIV. He also admitted that he was gay. He continues to survive, thrive, and perform at the age of 67. Panozzo is a role model to others who have been diagnosed with this disease, helping them realize that they can still live a full and productive life, thanks to the attention he and other celebrities have brought to the HIV fight.
12. Tony Richardson
Natasha and Joely Richardson’s father Tony was a world renowned director and had been married to Vanessa Redgrave (with whom he had Natasha and Joely). It was long suspected that Tony was bisexual and he contracted HIV. There has been no word on whether it was passed on to anyone else in his family, but he died in 1991 as a result of AIDS-related complications. Tragically, his daughter Natasha died several years ago from injuries sustained during a skiing accident.
11. Tom Fogerty
Tom Fogerty was a beloved musician for the rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival and also made a successful name for himself as a solo artist. His fans were stunned when he passed away in 1990 as the result of AIDS-related complications. He contracted it through a blood transfusion, which was a major problem during the 1980s because, even though blood was being tested when donated, there hadn’t been tests developed yet to test for the HIV virus. That has since changed.
10. Arthur Ashe
Arthur Ashe broke down the color barrier in tennis, becoming the first African American to win a Grand Slam event. He was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame and conducted many wonderful works outside his tennis life, including numerous humanitarian efforts. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, though he didn’t make that public knowledge until 1992. He passed away one year later from pneumonia that was complicated by his compromised immune system, one of the most common causes of death for those with HIV.
9. Rock Hudson
When Rock Hudson passed away in 1985, it stunned many who follow celebrities all around the world. Rock Hudson was an iconic movie star of the 1950s and 1960s and when it was discovered he had died of AIDS-related complications, speculation swirled about his personal life. He was a leading man who had millions of adoring female fans, but it turned out this icon was gay. At the time, most people associated HIV and AIDS as being a homosexual disease, though that has been proven to be anything but the truth today.
8. Jm J. Bullock
Jm J. Bullock is a beloved comedian who played goofy, klutzy characters on television shows like Too Close for Comfort and the Ted Knight Show, and he also was a regular on the game show Hollywood Squares hosted by John Davidson. Jm J. was also openly gay and was diagnosed in 1995 with HIV. His longtime partner passed away in 1996 of AIDS-related complications, but Jm J. continues to survive thanks in large part to medications that have been developed to help strengthen the body’s immune system.
7. Magic Johnson
Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson is considered by many to be one of the greatest NBA players of all time. He won numerous championships for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1980s, but in 1991 revealed that he had been diagnosed as having HIV. Due to the close competitive skin-to-skin contact players in the NBA endure, and the potential for open wounds as a result of impacts and other infractions, the NBA re-evaluated their procedures to ensure that anyone injured and with an open wound needs to have it treated immediately.
6. Freddie Mercury
Freddy Mercury was the lead singer of the world renowned rock band Queen, which was (and still remains) one of the best-selling bands of all time. Many lists rank him as the number one rock singer of all time as well. Freddy Mercury did not hide his homosexuality and in 1987 he was diagnosed with AIDS. He passed away four years later, one day after admitting to the world that he was living with this disease. Fortunately for fans of Queen, this revelation did nothing to alter the image of their iconic lead singer in their mind.
5. Eric “Eazy-E” Wright
One of the three founding members of the influential and controversial rap group N.W.A., Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright was a tough inner city black man who railed against the establishment and was a strong personality wherever he went. In 1995 he fell ill and when it was revealed that he had been diagnosed with AIDS, it shocked millions of people throughout the music industry and his fans. He died just one month after he had been diagnosed, at the age of 31. His death was a key moment in bringing more awareness to the general public about this disease.
One of the most flamboyant musical entertainers in history, Liberace was a pianist who took performance to a new level. It was no secret that he was gay (in fact it became a large part of his public persona) and when he was dealing with numerous illnesses and retreated from the public eye during the 1980s, there was some speculation that he could have contracted HIV. He kept his secret through the remainder of his life and it wasn’t made public until after his death in 1987.
3. Anthony Perkins
Most people will remember Anthony Perkins for his role as Norman Bates in the original Psycho movies, and even though he had some suspicions that he could be HIV positive, he didn’t get tested. He worried about what it would do to his career during a time when HIV was considered extremely taboo. It wasn’t until a National Enquirer article published to the world that he was HIV positive that he went to see a doctor and did find out the truth. He passed away two years later as a result of AIDS-related complications.
2. Robert Reed
Robert Reed’s life didn’t seem to be all that he had hoped it would be. He is known the world over as Mike Brady, the patriarch of The Brady Bunch, an iconic television program from the 1960s and 1970s, but he was frustrated by the role because he considered himself a much more serious actor. He was also a gay man trying hard to hide his true nature. He was successful because when he passed away in 1992, it was a shock to most people that he had died of HIV and that this beloved father figure had, in fact, been gay.
1. Greg Louganis
When Greg Louganis began winning Olympic gold medals left and right during the 1980s for diving, he became an instant celebrity and beloved icon for America. He became one of the most recognizable faces in sports during that time and when he won 2 more gold medals during the 1988 Olympics. He was then diagnosed as being HIV positive. His story, though, didn’t end shortly afterward. He made his diagnosis public seven years later and continues to survive with this disease and be a role model for thousands of others facing the same challenges.