The Celebrity HIV Factbook
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The Celebrity HIV Factbook

8 HIV positive celebrities who changed things.

The Celebrity HIV Factbook
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Human Immunodeficiency Virus, better known throughout the world as HIV, is a debilitating disease that attacks a person's immune system, which can lead to all manner of bodily malfunctions if left untreated. Treatments for HIV today, called anti-retroviral drugs, lower the viral load, or viral concentration in the body system, to less than twenty copies of the virus. This status is called "undetectable."

Any human can contract HIV, but the odds are significantly reduced to almost none when a person is on pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEp, which was designed to protect those who have not been diagnosed from contracted the virus. PEp, on the other hand, is a medicine that is taken if someone feels as if they were exposed to the virus through some form, either through sexual contact, injectable drug use or, in rare and unregulated cases, blood transfusions or other medical procedures.

Given these amazing advances in modern medicine by today's top scientists and researchers, people living with HIV and AIDS are living longer, healthier lives, and no longer face the death sentence these illnesses were once thought to be. This is one of the main points that should be stressed the most.

Many celebrities are (or have been) HIV-positive, and many have treated their viruses to the desired "undetectable" status, and have grown from their experiences with it, even if sometimes the days just seemed too dark to face. Celebrities living with HIV can be an inspiration for the average joe who is living with HIV.

1. Rock Hudson

On July 25, 1985, Rock Hudson became the first celebrity to go public with the news that he was living with AIDS. At this time of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the mainstream media and the nation was convinced that these viruses were death sentences. Nonetheless, he bravely came forth with the news but tragically passed away later that year from complications due to the illness. Rock Hudson set the curve on bravery with these viruses.

2. Charlie Sheen

The man, the myth, the legend. Charlie Sheen was diagnosed with HIV in 2011, but came out with his HIV status with Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. He reportedly wanted to "eat a bullet" the day he was diagnosed but didn't do so because it would have devastated his mother if he had committed suicide. More recently, he has stated that he feels as if he has been called to "carry the torch" for those living with HIV and AIDS. With his status as a celebrity, and the voice that comes along with that role, Charlie Sheen could very well blaze a trail for awareness and decline of diagnosis in the United States.

3. Magic Johnson

The Los Angeles Lakers basketball star retired from the NBA unexpectedly in 1991 after announcing that he was HIV-positive. Since then, the former player is now an analyst for the NBA and is a heavy activist in the fight for HIV awareness and against the stigma associated with the illness. He is a true model who exemplifies that being HIV-positive isn't some sort of death sentence or reason for not living life. Johnson has been HIV-positive for about 25 years.

4. Greg Louganis

Greg Louganis, the Olympic legend from the '70s and '80s, came out not only as an HIV-positive celebrity, but as an openly-gay man in the spotlight, as well. He wrote about his experiences in his revelatory 1996 autobiography, "Breaking the Waves," where he talked about things like the stigma that surrounds HIV and the lengths people used to (and still) go to hide their diagnosis from the people that love them. Louganis said that back when he was first diagnosed, he never thought he'd live to see 30 years old.

5. Michael Jeter

This iconic actor has big cinematic notches on his belt such as "The Green Mile" and "Jurassic Park 3." After he announced he was HIV-positive in 1997, he dedicated his time to his more important role of being a public speaking figurehead on HIV diagnoses while simultaneous working on acting projects until his death in 2003 at the age of 50.

6. Freddie Mercury

He built a grandiose persona due to his multitudinal fan base across the globe. The frontman of the iconic British group Queen, Freddie Mercury was the man. That's why his death in 1991 at the age of 45 rocked the globe and his millions of fans. His death came soon after he went public with his condition.

7. Eazy-E

Eric "Eazy-E" Wright was a member of the rap group N.W.A. and dropped a bomb on his fan base and the nation when he announced that he was dying from AIDS on March 17, 1995. His announcement was a stark revelation that even those who are (portrayed as) the toughest and hardest among us aren't immune to the dangers of HIV.

Eazy-E said this about HIV and AIDS at the time in a statement:

"I'm not religious, but wrong or right, that's me. I'm not saying this because I'm looking for a soft cushion wherever I'm heading. I just feel I've got thousands and thousands of young fans that have to learn about what's real when it comes to AIDS."

8. Arthur Ashe

As the first black man to play at both the Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and actually win in singles, Arthur Ashe was the top tennis champion during the mid-1970s. Ashe became HIV-positive through a blood transfusion during heart surgery and afterward became an activist, speaking up about awareness of HIV in the United States before dying in February of 1993.

These celebrities, and so many others like them, have bravely come forth and exposed themselves and their conditions to the world. Not to garner sympathy or pity, but to utilize the power of their positions and employ their significant voices to raise the awareness and activism at HIV and AIDS needs.

Stigma still exists against HIV and AIDS, and it is one of the root causes of its proliferation: it's just not talked about at the rate in which it needs to, and that the level of honesty that it needs to be discussed in an open, knowledge-expanding dialogue.

Challenge HIV and AIDS discrimination and stigma.

Most community health departments test for HIV at little to no cost to you.

Go get tested, know your status.

Spread the word: HIV is no longer a death sentence.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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