After more than 30 years since HIV was first discovered, it’s still the scary disease that shakes the general public to the core. Even high-profile celebrities, who have access to wealth and better health care, are not immune to HIV. Over 1.2 million people are suffering from HIV or AIDS, in the United Sates alone. HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome doesn’t discriminate. Here are the stories of 16 famous celebrities who have contracted the disease – some of whom have lost their lives because of it, while others are still dealing with it in the public eye.
16. Freddie Mercury
Front man of the British rock band Queen, who gave us timeless songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” ”We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” Mercury was first diagnosed when he was 41.
15. Magic Johnson
At the age of 32, the NBA star and Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard for 13 seasons, acknowledged that he was infected by HIV. The announcement was followed by an abrupt retirement.
14. Charlie Sheen
This A-lister has just opened up about his battle with the dreaded virus. The actor, former husband of Denise Richards, has once revealed that he slept with more than 5,000 women – many of which were porn stars and groupies. He also revealed in the Today Show that he was diagnosed HIV-positive four years ago, but has been reluctant to come out in public because of lawsuit fears.
According to him, one of the porn stars he slept with had blackmailed him for $10 million.
13. Rock Hudson
Rock Hudson was the first high-profile celebrity to die from the complications of the AIDS virus. He was a homosexual and has kept this secret from the public throughout his life. Last month, fans and family commemorated the 30th anniversary of his death. The Illinois-born heartthrob was famous for the movies Pillow Talk (1959), Send Me No Flowers (1964) and The Ambassador (1984).
12. Eric “Eazy-E” Wright
Eazy-E, founder of the influential rap group N.W.A, earned the title Godfather of Gangsta Rap after investing in Ruthless Records. He was diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 31, and died weeks after the announcement due to AIDS-related complications. He has fathered seven children from six women. Many speculated that he contracted the disease because from his multiple sexual partners.
11. Robert Reed
Reed was famous for his portrayal of Mike Brady, the father in the wholesome 70s TV show The Brady Bunch. He also starred in Galactica 1980 and Charlie’s Angels TV series.
He gained multiple nominations for his performance in Roots (1997), Medical Center (1969) and Rich Man, Poor Man (1976). He died in 1992 at the age of 59 due to bowel cancer, but his death certificate showed that he was HIV-positive.
10. Arthur Ashe
The world’s grand slam tennis player, and the first African- American selected to play in the United States Davis Cup, Arthur Ashe Jr., was reportedly infected by HIV through blood transfusion.
It was unfortunate that a second heart bypass surgery meant to save his life made him fall to the dreaded disease. After announcing his condition in 1992, he focused on AIDS awareness campaigns and political activism. He founded Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health.
Wladziu Valention Liberace, most popularly known as Liberace, was a child prodigy. At age 16, he already appeared as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was a talented pianist and entertainer, known for his flamboyant lifestyle. He constantly performed in Las Vegas in later years of his career. The musical sensation sold out many concerts and even had his own TV show. At the program’s height, over 35 million viewers stay tuned to witness his charms and over the top performances. It is still unknown when and how he contracted the disease. His management, family and close friends denied the allegations, as well as the rumors of his sexual encounters with men. In 1987, his death certificate confirmed that he died of AIDS-related pneumonia.
8. Anthony Perkins
He was Norman Bates from the Hitchcock classic Psycho. But even before his career-defining performance, he was already a brilliant actor and singer – nominated for Tony and Oscar Awards – and winner of the Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1990; many are quick to speculate that it was because of his romantic relationships with both men and women, including the American composer Stephen Sondheim. He kept his condition from public for fear of not getting job offers and the stigma of being an AIDS patient. He died in 1992 at the age of 60. Perkins’ wife and kids have been tested for HIV but came out negative.
7. Pedro Zamora
Zamora was an openly gay actor known for his works on The Real World: San Francisco. The MTV original made a mark on reality television and LGBT community. He was tested HIV-positive in 1989 at the age of 17. He was commended for making great efforts in finishing his high school despite his illness, and ultimately, becoming an AIDS educator to raise awareness for AIDS treatment and prevention. He died in 1994, just hours after the final episode of The Real World: San Francisco was aired. A portion of a street in Miami was renamed after him, as well as other organizations that aims to spread knowledge about AIDS in public.
6. Gia Carangi
Gia died at the young age of 26. She was the first female celebrity to die of AIDS-related complications. She earned the title “World’s First Supermodel” after successfully gracing various international magazines and advertisements for designer brands, including Versace, Christian Dior, Perry Ellis and Yves Saint Laurent. She had extensive drug abuse history, and had used cocaine and heroin. It was publicly known that she had sexual encounters with various women in the industry, from photographers to designers. She underwent several rehabilitation programs but failed; her career declined as she squandered her earnings on drugs. She died in 1986. HBO Films paid tribute to her in a bio-drama Gia, played by the upcoming star Angelina Jolie.
5. Amanda Blake
She was known as Miss Kitty from the long-running TV show Gunsmoke. She quit the show in 1976 after being diagnosed with mouth cancer. She reportedly smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day. It’s not known when and where she contracted the disease, but a number of assumptions pointed to his bisexual ex-husband, Mark Spaeth. Spaeth also died of AIDS-related illness a year after their marriage. She died in 1985, initially thought to be caused by her recurring cancer, but Cytomegalovirus or CMV Hepatitis was listed as the cause of her death – a known AIDS-acquired disease. She left all her wealth to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
4. Derek Jarman
Derek was an openly gay English director and cinematographer, who rocked the cinema in the 1970s until the 1990s. He directed eleven highly-regarded feature films throughout his career. He won eight awards as Best Feature Film in Berlin International Film Festival. His experimental film Edward II propelled Tilda Swinton to fame. AIDS rendered him partially blind and ultimately killed him at the age of 52.
3. Peter Allen
An Australian-born musician and songwriter, Peter Allen, popularize the song, “Arthur’s Theme.” He also wrote songs for famous artists like Frank Sinatra, Olivia Newton-John and Carly Simon. He married Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. He divorced her after seven years, and went to live with his male partner, Gregory Connell. He died in 1992, aged 48. His life was portrayed in a musical The Boy from Oz, and starred by Hugh Jackman.
2. Isaac Asimov
If you like science fiction, you probably heard of Isaac Asimov. He was a famous American writer and Biochemistry professor. He was considered as one of the biggest sci-fi authors, along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. A crater in MARS called asteroid 5020 Asimov was named after him, as well as an elementary school in Brooklyn and a prestigious literary award giving body. His famous works include I, Robot (1950), Foundation’s Edge (1982), The End of Eternity (1955) and the Galactic Empire series. His death in 1992 was said to be due to heart and kidney failure. But it was only revealed after 10 years that he also contracted AIDS, probably through tainted blood used during his bypass surgery.
1. Tommy Fogerty
Tommy was the lead guitarist and primary songwriter of the highly-influential rock band, Creedence Clearwater Revival or CCR, which he co-founded with his brother, John. The band gave us the Southern rock songs, Proud Mary, Fortunate Son, and Have You Ever Seen the Rain. The band abruptly ended in the early 70s when Tommy and John had a falling out. He contracted HIV from a blood transfusion and died in 1990.