40 Celebs Who Contracted HIV and AIDS

HIV is a viral disease that weakens an individual’s immune system by killing the white blood cells, specifically the CD4 cells. Although there is still no treatment for HIV, anti-retroviral therapy is powerfully effective. An individual diagnosed with HIV can have the same life expectancy as an HIV negative person, with routine care.

Despite the awareness that we now have about HIV, there is still a lot of shame regarding the illness. Nobody is safe from getting this disease if not taken the correct precautions, even the richest of celebrities and people are vulnerable in front of this disease. We have listed 40 stars who had the guts to tell the world about their HIV positive status.

Jonathan Van Ness

Best known for his expertise on hair and beauty in the T.V. show Queer Eye, Jonathan Van Ness has been HIV positive since he was in his mid-twenties. It was only when his autobiography “Over the Top” was about to be released that he became public with the news. Through his book, he talked about his past trauma of sexual abuse and how that was the initiator of his toxic lifestyle of drug abuse and open sex. The news of being positive led him to change his life for the better and has been clean since then. He worked in the parody of Game of Thrones called Gay of Thrones, which got nominated for Emmy’s three times. Since then, he has starred on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot.

Jonathan took some time to figure out how to put his life together. He revealed in an interview that the virus was undetectable in his blood given the medical advancements. But, he cannot forget the day he received his HIV diagnosis. After he asked the doctor if he would live until he was 75, her response was anything but funny. His doctor told him that: “I will keep you alive long enough to die of a heart attack or cancer like everyone else,” and started laughing uncontrollably. Despite this not-so-favorable response, Jonathan still thinks that testing positive for HIV liberated him. He is now trying to live every moment to the fullest. He took up ice-skating lessons and gymnastics and is looking forward to fighting HIV. “I absolutely do not think I’d have been as socially aware or conscious or want to make as much of a difference. It gave me a reason to really fight,” Jonathan confirmed.

Charlie Sheen

The ‘Two and a Half Men’ star Charlie Sheen came out as HIV positive in November 2015, and he also revealed that it had been four years since he was tested positive. Sheen claims that he does not have any idea of how he contracted it. However, in 2015, Sheen decided to reveal the news about his diagnosis in an interview with Today, claiming it to be a turning point in his life. “It’s a hard three letters to absorb. It’s a turning point in one’s life,” the actor told Today.

Ever since he has revealed this news, he became a representative for Swedish Condom Company and became a prominent spokesperson for safe sex practices. According to an account of the time he got diagnosed shared by Sheen, he experienced crushing headaches and initially thought that he had a brain tumor. Later on, when he consulted the doctor and got tested, he learned about being HIV positive. Over the years, Sheen turned to many different sets of medications to manage HIV and has been quite successful. In an appearance at Good Morning America in 2017, Sheen said that he feels like he is carrying the torch for others to follow in his footsteps. “I feel like I’m carrying the torch. For a lot of folks out there that are suffering from the same thing.”

Danny Pintauro

Pintauro from ‘Who’s The Boss?’ got HIV in 2003. He revealed that the cause behind this was his drug abuse of Crystal Meth. This drug has tendencies to impair your immunity, which leads to getting infected with deadly diseases. After his successful stint on Who’s the Boss, Pintauro struggled a lot to stay afloat. In 2015, while giving an interview to Oprah Winfrey, the actor revealed details of this particular phase of his life when he experimented with crystal meth and received the diagnosis. Pintauro told Oprah that he went for a regular checkup because, as a responsible gay man, he used to get tested every six months when he got diagnosed, but he never felt guilty at all. 

He was terrified of the very idea of getting the virus, but once he got diagnosed for real, the feelings of fear just vanished. Pintauro told his husband about the diagnosis, and they shared a kiss. Now he hopes that gay men try to be just as open about their diagnosis as he did. In 2015, Pintauro told People that he considers it an opportunity to take responsibility for and spread the word.

“I went in for a regular checkup. You know, as a responsible gay man, you’re getting an HIV test done every six months … And you sort of waited two weeks on pins and needles, or at least I did, because I was just terrified of the idea of getting HIV.”

“You’ve spent so much time terrified that you’re going to get it, and then you have it. You don’t have to be terrified anymore.”

“So now that all of this is happening, I feel like the fates are telling me that this is my opportunity to be that beacon of light, and I’m going to do everything and anything I can to live up to that.”

Danny Pintauro

Andy Bell

Erasure’s lead vocalist confirmed that he was HIV-positive along with his partner. Bell told HIV Plus magazine that he tested positive six years ago after getting sick with pneumonia but didn’t disclose it as he wasn’t ready. Bell believes that HIV positive people do not have to have AIDS. And, if they take proper care, they can live as long as an average person. Also, Bell revealed that he has been under antiretroviral combination therapy and has been feeling better since then. The singer’s partner shared their journey and fight with HIV in the book Sometimes: A Life of Love, Loss & Erasure.

Paul Hickey, Bell’s boyfriend, passed away in 2012. The British pop star had devoted himself to promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and released several covers and a compilation album to raise funds for HIV-related research. He also served as the ambassador for New York’s Hetrick-Martin Institute and many UK-based organizations to help facilitate the LGBT community.

Magic Johnson

Earvin’ Magic’ Johnson is one of the greatest and legendary basketball players in the sport’s history. In 1991, the sports star revealed that he was diagnosed with HIV and admitted that he probably contracted the virus through getting intimate with ‘harems of women.’ However, once he got diagnosed, he geared all possible efforts to bring HIV out of the shadows of the gay plague and make it part of the mainstream debate and research.

The former Los Angeles Laker revealed at a media conference on November 7, 1991, that he was retiring from basketball because he was HIV-positive. Johnson urged everyone to be sexually responsible because unprotected intercourse was why he got the disease and that anyone can contract it regardless of gender, income level, or ethnicity. Johnson, who earned three NBA MVP Awards and made 9 NBA Finals appearances, assists and supports HIV-related causes via the Magic Johnson Foundation. Since his diagnosis, Johnson, now 61, has raised several million dollars in donations. In 2003, a meta-analysis conducted by the Journal of Health Communications concluded that Johnson’s efforts “increased the level of accurate knowledge [about HIV], the number of persons getting tested for HIV, and the desire to obtain more information about HIV and AIDS.” Through his foundation, Magic Johnson helped bring HIV testing facilities in sixteen major US cities and offered sexual health education to over a quarter-million citizens.

Greg Louganis

This four-time Olympic gold medalist in diving is HIV positive. He took part in the 1988 Olympics while being aware of his condition. However, Louganis didn’t tell the world about his diagnosis as he was scared of the consequences. He later gave out crucial details of his life and struggles as an HIV positive gay in his book Breaking the Surface. Louganis told ESPN magazine that when he was tested positive at the age of 28, he believed that HIV would bring death. HIV gave him a new perspective on life, and now he doesn’t take anything for granted. He recently coached the U.S. diving team for the Rio Olympics and has been the face of Wheaties cereal box.

In 1994, his coming-out video kickstarted the 1994 Gay Games, and in 1995, Louganis openly acknowledged his disease status and lifestyle while speaking to Barbara Walters on ABC television. Later, he got married to Johnny Chaillot, his long-time partner, and now works with the Human Rights Campaign to advocate for LGBT rights and facilitate people living with HIV worldwide. In 2016, Louganis told ESPN that his doctor encouraged him to continue training for the Olympics after getting diagnosed and live a healthier life. 

“My doctor encouraged me that the healthiest thing for me would be to continue training for the Olympics. The diving was much more of a positive thing to focus on. I did suffer from depression; if we had a day off, I couldn’t get out of bed. I would just pull the covers over my head. But as long as I had something on the calendar, I showed up.” Today, Louganis is an inspiration not only for athletes but also for those battling with HIV stigma.

Chuck Panozzo

Styx’s bass player revealed while speaking with the popular gay magazine The Advocate that at the time of his diagnosis, he was just 12 years old and that the gay community was in misery. At the time, Panozzo felt that there was no hope for him because gays keep their sexual preferences a secret due to religious and political issues. He is now a representative of the Human Rights Campaign and stands for HIV issues.

Styx’s bass player revealed while speaking with the popular gay magazine The Advocate that he was just 12 years old and that the gay community was in misery at the time of his diagnosis. At the time, Panozzo felt hopeless because gays keep their sexual preferences a secret due to religious and political issues. After making his condition public in 2001, Panozzo wrote a memoir to describe his experiences. More than a decade later, in 2012, Panozzo revealed that being with Styx band was his primary motivation and support source. 

“What the band has taught me psychologically is that I need to go out and be with my band as they continue their legacy in the rock ‘n’ roll world forever… How could that not help me in my recovery process? I have a brand that is willing to make sure that I stay healthy,” Panozzo said. He is now a representative of the Human Rights Campaign and stands for HIV issues.

Freddie Mercury

In November of 1991, Price asked his manager Jim Beach to release a public announcement on Freddie Mercury’s behalf. The statement discussed that Freddie had contracted HIV AIDS. He also explained why he hid the news before, the privacy of his closed ones being the main. He asked for support from his fans, coupled with his right to privacy. Mercury passed away just one day later, at the age of 45. The Queen frontman, Mercury, never liked to talk about his health status or sexuality. However, in the statement he released before his death, Mercury poured his heart out and told the world that he was battling AIDS.

“Following enormous conjecture in the press, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private in order to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has now come for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth, and I hope everyone will join with me, my doctors, and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.”

Rock Hudson

He revealed his HIV-positive status on July 25, 1985, in a public conference. At that time, he was the only big celebrity to come out as HIV positive. The quintessential tall, dark, and handsome leading man of Hollywood back in the 1950s and 60s who appeared in over 60 movies during his career shocked everyone with this announcement. With that press conference, Hudson became the first mainstream celebrity to publicly come out with such a diagnosis regarded as a death sentence. The first cases of AIDS back then were diagnosed in homosexual males, and the medical community didn’t understand AIDS as well as it does today.

Instead, the public was stigmatized as a condition that affected just gay men, those who received a contaminated blood transfusion, and intravenous drug users. Hudson died on October 2, 1985, at the age of 59 in Beverly Hills, California. After his demise, people took notice of a brewing epidemic that eventually killed millions of men, women, and children of all age groups and backgrounds. Hudson’s good friend and Giant co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, later became an AIDS activist and rallied to raise millions for AIDS research. He also gave $250,000 in charity to kick off one of the first and biggest charities specified for AIDs research. He got an Academy Award for his Giant’s role, but his defining parts were in the rom-com with Doris Day. During the length of his career, he did not reveal his sexual orientation. His demise was due to issues related to AIDS in 1985.

Ryan White

Ryan White is known for his protest and fights for the right to rejoin public school. He contracted the virus due to hemophilia’s blood transmission, and post his diagnosis, White was banned from attending school. He became a voice for the disease that was heard worldwide. Reportedly, White suffered from a hereditary medical condition called Hemophilia, due to which his body couldn’t coagulate. Due to this condition, Ryan experienced severe bleeding even with a minor injury. Unfortunately, after receiving a blood transfusion in 1984, he contracted AIDS. Soon after returning to school, the school district barred him from attending classes due to the disease.

Eventually, Ryan White’s issue received nationwide attention when he and his family rallied against the school’s biased attitude. Ryan became the poster-child for HIV/AIDS movement and helped the government educate the masses about the disease. White passed away in 1990, but his legacy continued through the Ryan White Care Act passed by the U.S. Congress four months after his death. It became the most prominent federal government program for people living with HIV-AIDS and is still active. Elton John was present at the place and time of White’s death in April 1990. White’s fight caused President George H.W. Bush to sign off the Ryan White Care Act, which has raised millions for HIV and AIDS treatment.

Ricky Wilson

Ricky Wilson lost his life to HIV- AIDS on October 12, 1985, at the young age of 32. He was a music artist from America who was famous as the guitarist of the well-known band B-52. Wilson formed the band with help from his sister Cindy, Keith Strickland, Kate Pierson, and Fred Schneider in 1976. When the band visited Athens, Georgia, they all became very good friends on musical tours and soon started playing at CBGB and uber-hip N.Y. clubs. Their debut album, The B-52’s, featuring original hits like 52 Girls and Rock Lobster and a remake of Petula Clark’s classic Downtown, set many records and went platinum eventually.

Ricky’s last album with the band was Bouncing Off the Satellites in 1985. He discovered that he had AIDS in 2003 amid the band’s new album “Whammy’s” recording. The band immediately went into seclusion, and the only act they performed together was the recording at TV PSA to spread awareness about HIV-AIDS. After a three-year-long hiatus, the group resumed touring and recording. The album Cosmic Thing was a commercially successful album featuring songs like Love Shack and Roam. Ricky Wilson died at the age of 32 after battling the disease for two years. Wilson succumbed to complications arising from AIDS and was buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery.

Pedro Zamora

Zamora landed a role in MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco in 1994, rendering him the first publicly gay HIV-infected human to be a part of the television industry. As a house guest, Zamora tried to educate an entire generation of viewers about living with AIDS and offered them an unprecedented view into his everyday life so as to help reduce the stigma surrounding the condition. Unfortunately, Zamora passed away the same year he appeared on The Real World when he was just 22-years old. His life story and legacy continue to contribute to contemporary debates on HIV/AIDS awareness even to this day.

Zamora was like an icon for sexual diversity. He was a passionate HIV prevention and care programs supporter and actively encouraged people to fight against the disease. He even served in the Board of Directors for AIDS Action prior to its merger with the National AIDS Fund that laid the foundation of AIDS United. Zamora was diagnosed in 1989 when he was just a teenager of 17, which caused him to become an activist for HIV treatment and control rapidly. His work for HIV awareness included him going to churches and schools to talk about this problem and even gave out free condoms to promote safe sex. Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy took his life early, the same day when his show’s season finale came out.

Alexis Arquette

Iconic drag queen Eva Destruction was previously known as Robert, underwent sex-change surgery but failed to keep the identity as her health deteriorated. She was declared HIV positive in 1989 and fought a long battle until her sad demise in September 2013. Arquette was a charismatic performer and Hollywood’s nightlife fixture. She was a powerhouse performer and stole scenes from leading artists in movies like Last Exit to Brooklyn, Pulp Fiction, Of Mice and Men, and most notably, The Wedding Singer. For two decades, Arquette fought with the virus when it was considered a death sentence and a career destroyer.

She preferred to remain private about her health issues and obstinate about getting treated. There came a time when Arquette started ignoring her family and friends’ pleas to take AIDS drugs, which would have saved her life, but she refused. Eventually, the battle became difficult as the 47-year-old developed a liver infection that later spread throughout her body. On Sunday, September 11, she was pronounced dead. The news was shared with the world via a Facebook post from Richmond Arquette, her eldest brother. Her family’s statement read: “Our brother Robert, who became our brother Alexis, who became our sister Alexis, who became our brother Alexis [has] passed.” Her life and the story of her sex-change surgery was adapted into a documentary called “Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother.” Her family, also from the industry, celebrated her life by honoring her at the 2019 Emmy Awards. Furthermore, her family even established the Alexis Arquette Family Foundation that works for L.A.’s LGBTQ community in collaboration with the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center.


Ace pianist Liberace was famous for his outlandish choice of costumes, over-the-top performances, and piano-top candelabra. However, the pianist found himself in a controversy when his chauffeur-cum-secretary Scott Thorson and the Daily Mirror claimed that he was gay. Liberace sued both the parties in 1956, and later, Thorson sued for palimony in 1982. Liberace developed AIDS and died because of related pneumonia in February 1987. However, his manager, attorney, and publicist denied that he had AIDS. His autopsy report verified the rumors that he indeed had AIDS.

The physician who treated Liberace, Dr. Ronald Daniels, said that the cause of the entertainer’s deth was cardiac arrest due to heart failure prompted by subacute encephalopathy, which is a condition involving brain inflammation. However, the death certificate wasn’t accepted by Riverside County Coroner Ray Carrillo as the authorities suspected foul play. Hence, an autopsy was ordered, and the real cause of death was announced at a news conference by Carrillo himself. “Mr. Liberace did not die of cardiac arrest and cardiac failure due to encephalopathy and anemia as certified by the physician on the death certificate. Our postmortem has precluded any conjecture. He did die of AIDS.”

Anthony Perkins

Who can forget Norman Bates, the notorious anti-hero in Alfred Hitchcock’s all-time classic horror movie Psycho? Anthony Perkins played the character of Bates. However, that wasn’t only his claim to fame; the actor started acting at 15. The Oscar winner was diagnosed with AIDS in the late 1980s, which he kept a secret while working with Project Angel Food. It was a meal service for homebound HIV patients. For two years, Perkins and his wife Berry Berenson stayed mum about the actor’s condition and diagnosis. Later in an interview, Ms. Berenson said that Perkins never wanted people to know about it.

“He figured if anyone knew they’d never give him work again,” she revealed. In his final days, Perkins asked his sons to issue a note after his death and they wrote down their father’s last message to his fans. The message read:

 “I chose not to go public about this, because to misquote ‘Casablanca,’ I’m not much at being noble, but it doesn’t take too much to see that the problems of an old actor don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy old world.” Shortly before his death in September 1992, a statement was released in which he revealed that for him, HIV wasn’t God’s vengeance but an opportunity to learn and teach how to love and show compassion to people.

Anthony Perkins

Robert Reed

The trained Shakespearian garnered nationwide fame after appearing on Neil Simon’s Broadway titled Barefoot in the Park. However, we became a household name worldwide after being cast as Mike Brady in The Brady Bunch in 1969. He quickly became famous as America’s Dad, and people looked up to him. Reed was gay, and he successfully kept his sexual orientation hidden for decades. People got to know that he had contracted HIV/AIDS after he died. Reed died because of colon cancer. Reed wanted to keep his condition and that he was gay a secret until he died in 1992.

The cause of his death was cancer, but his death certificate revealed it to the world that he was also infected with HIV. Later, many of his co-stars came forward, explaining the traumatic time Reed endured because of the condition and its stigma. His on-screen wife Florence Henderson, who played the role of Carol Brady, revealed that Reed was the perfect father and husband but was an unhappy person because he was forced to live a double life. “Here he was, the perfect father of this wonderful little family, a perfect husband. He was an unhappy person … I think had Bob not been forced to live this double life, I think it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration.”

Andy Fraser

At just the age of 15, Andy Fraser created history after becoming the founding and base member for the rock band Free in 1968. For over 40 years, he kept entertaining the masses and rocked the world with back-to-back classics like The Stealer and All Right Now. Fraser was a trained classical pianist and spent most of his adult life playing the guitar on the street. By the 2000s, his health deteriorated, and he admitted that he was diagnosed with AIDS and a rare kind of cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma back in the 1990s. From 1994 onwards, he was rarely seen performing on stage.

For Fraser, the diagnosis acted as a wake-up call. While giving an interview to Classic Rock magazine, Fraser recalled that things started to unravel quickly for him after the death of his band and marriage. He realized that he was gay and decided to eliminate a lot of things from his life. Therefore, he purchased a motorhome and started traveling across the country. But after some time, his deteriorating health made these excursions difficult for him. Recalling when he got diagnosed, Fraser revealed that he was frozen when he learned that he was both Hep B and HIV positive. He was unable to play music for long after getting diagnosed. His final appearance was for the new Free album Naked and Finally Free. Fraser died in March 2015.

“They tested me and it came back: Hepatitis B and HIV. You’re frozen. I was frozen for five minutes, and that night was a sleepless night from crying. But I’m proud of how quickly I said, ‘Okay, you have less time than you thought. Prioritize. Cut out the crap.'”

Andy Fraser

Jerry Herman

The songwriter of classical Broadway scores such as Hello, Dolly! Mame and La Cage aux Folles have been HIV positive since 1985. At the time, the disease was regarded as a death sentence. Naturally, Herman had difficulty adjusting to life with HIV and maintaining his career in the entertainment industry. He’s among the longest-living survivors of HIV currently as it’s been over 34 years now, and he’s still managing well. In fact, Herman was among the first few individuals to receive the earliest AIDS medication, developed to convert it from a fatal and incurable condition to a manageable disease. But, on a professional front, he found it hard to manage as he was literally ‘outed’ in the newspapers. He was bold enough to be upfront about his disease and sexuality, but the honesty nearly ruined his career. Herman told Charlie Rose that producers weren’t interested in casting him anymore.

“It was devastating to me because producers stopped calling me. … They didn’t want someone who was going to die to work on their next project. And my career actually stopped.” Herman’s partner passed away because of the same disease. In 1998 he reported his rate of infection was impossible to detect after receiving experimental therapy. At 85, Herman lives a healthy life; he also won a Tony for his life’s work in Theatre and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Rudy Galindo

Figure skater Galindo has seen two mentors, in addition to his brother losing the battle to AIDS. In April 2000, he revealed to USA Today about being diagnosed with HIV. Galindo made his diagnosis public within the same month he got diagnosed. Galindo later revealed that he contracted the virus after having pneumonia and is unsure how he got AIDS. Looking back, Rudy realized that his life was already out of control at that point as he was into drugs and unprotected intercourse. He has been on treatment and is currently coaching in San Jose. A few years later, Galindo revealed that despite putting up a brave face, the news that he was HIV positive hit him hard, mainly because his brother had passed away because of the same disease, and he saw all the sufferings that he endured for eight months.

“At first, I thought it was a death sentence, but my doctor quickly reassured me. My doctors told me of the medical advances, just at that point.

“You don’t have to sit on the couch just waiting for your dying day; you can go out there and live your life fairly normally, do what you want. The money [ raised ] and the research is really paying off for HIV and AIDS.”

“I accomplished so much in my career, so many of my dreams in skating. I just didn’t go to the Olympics. I accomplished everything that I wanted to in skating. I have no regrets from my skating career, including not going to the Olympics. I’m really happy with everything that happened in my skating career.”

Rudy Galindo

Today, he firmly believes that the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS isn’t a death sentence anymore, which is why he wants to be out there and share his story. The 1996 U.S. national champion and the 1987 World Junior champion now follow a straightforward HIV treatment routine comprising a “couple pills a day.” He says that he feels greats and everything is fine now. Galindo also doesn’t have any regrets because he has accomplished a lot in his career and fulfilled all of his dreams.


Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson revealed in his autobiography that he tested positive for HIV in 1991. He started taking combination therapy in 1996. In his autobiography titled ‘A Bone in My Flute,’ released in 1994, the Frankie Goes To Hollywood actor wrote that he never believed he could live a healthy and normal life after getting diagnosed and combination therapy could work. “Even then, I didn’t believe it was going to work,” he stated in one of his interviews. But, several years later, he told The Guardian that he is on top of his health after adopting a positive approach towards living with HIV.

“I live like a nun. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I haven’t done for years. I take copious amounts of vitamins and medications. I do everything possible to support my health,” he told the media outlet. Still, he does experience HIV side effects due to medications, but he tries to remain positive instead of whining about it all the time. 

“I’m not whining about it, and I never will. Because I’m so lucky in many respects,” Johnson stated, “many beautiful friends who were my gay extended family have gone. So I’m kind of living for them also in some ways.”

Holly Johnson

Javier Muñoz

We all know him as Usnavi de la Vega in ‘In the Heights’ and Alexander in ‘Hamilton.’ He has been dealing with AIDS after getting diagnosed in 2002. He told the world in an interview with the New York Times about his situation in 2016. “I have been living with HIV since 2002, and I’m undetectable,” Muñoz stated in his interview with The New York Times. “I’m healthy, I’m strong and I’m very out about that because of the stigma still attached to it.” Muñoz added with pride that he felt he was healthier than anyone who’s “HIV, negative, walking around and not caring about what they’re eating and not exercising and not doing anything for their health and wellness. There is a new way to live with this. I’m thriving and it’s possible. And I’m not the only one.”

That’s true. Today, if you meet Muñoz, you will be surprised to see his well-maintained health. However, Muñoz is astounded over the amount of ignorance that exists around HIV/AIDS. That’s why he decided to dedicate his life both to activism and artistry. He has a pretty good idea about what it is like to come out as he’s done this three times- first when he announced that he was gay, then as a gay person living with HIV, and the third time an HIV-positive cancer survivor. He feels grateful for being alive and well. Even his life has changed since the diagnosis.

Tom Fogerty

Rock artist Tom Fogerty contracted HIV in the eighties because of a blood transfer for his back operation. Fogerty and his brother were founding members of a Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) rock band, while Fogerty performed in several other groups. After collaborating for CCR, the brothers produced megahits like “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Born on the Bayou,” and “Fortunate Son.” Unfortunately, in the early 1970s, the brothers had a falling out, marking the beginning of the end for CCR. Fogerty’s attempts to establish himself as a solo artist couldn’t be as successful as Creedence achieved.

In the 1980s, he moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, and underwent surgery for his back. During that process, an unscreened blood transfusion resulted in Fogerty getting infected with HIV and eventually his death in 1990. The official cause of his death was reportedly tuberculosis. Fogerty died at the age of 48. The brothers barely reconciled before Fogerty’s death. At his funeral, his brother John Fogerty read a eulogy that stated. “We wanted to grow up and be musicians. Also I guess we achieved half of that. Becoming rock ‘n roll stars. We didn’t necessarily grow up.”

Keith Haring

We still cannot forget Haring’s cartoonish yet attention-grabbing drawings on New York city’s subways. That gig turned out to be his claim to fame as there was no looking back for the artist. As he grew as an artist, his support for AIDS-related causes also increased tremendously. His efforts were to establish the Keith Haring Foundation, which he founded just a year after being diagnosed with HIV in 1988. Through this foundation, he provided art and money to various children’s programs and AIDS organizations. A major supporter of HIV/AIDS awareness programs and organizations like ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Haring did everything in his power to educate the masses about getting tested at the right time.

On several occasions, Haring donated tens of thousands of dollars to help organizers pay for awareness drives. Two years after getting diagnosed himself, Haring revealed his life story to the world in a 1989 article for Rolling Stone. He provided details on what it was like living with HIV-AIDS and the stigma surrounding the condition. “There was hysteria and fear ’cause so many had it, yet nobody was coming out and talking about it; especially nobody famous,” said friend Kenny Scharf. “It was very brave of him to do that,” Haring wrote in the article. He died in February 1990 due to HIV-related complications.

Roy Cohn

Cohn was the chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s when McCarthy was relentlessly exposing Communists in the government. During the 60s and 70s, Cohn emerged as the most stalwart supporter of New York mob figures. However, in 1968, Roy Cohn was disbarred by the state of New York for misconduct. After he died in August 1986, there was a lot of speculation about his death’s actual cause. Later on, it was revealed that Cohn died because of a heart attack, but he was suffering from HTLV III infection, which we know as HIV. While he was alive, Cohn never admitted that he had AIDS and instead maintained that he had liver cancer. Reportedly, he had cut himself shaving, and the bleeding didn’t stop. One of Cohn’s friends recalled the time when he was diagnosed. 

“He went to the doctor, and they re­moved two growths plus something on his leg.” However, according to Roy’s narration of the events, which isn’t too reliable, he was flying to Washington when he received a call through the radiotelephone that there was a malignant growth on his ear that he had cancer and not AIDS. At the time of his diagnosis, Roy thought he only had six months to live, but he lived for two years. His lover Peter Fraser said that Roy dealt with the news bravely. When he found out, he didn’t cry but a couple of tears. He was thinking about his Aunt Libby and his friends who would be affected by him dying. He tried to make sure I would be taken care of,” Peter said.

Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe earned a reputation for producing some of the most graphic and sexually explicit photos. He wasn’t even scared of documenting the effect of AIDS on his health. The world learned that Mapplethorpe had AIDS after his former friend and lover, Sam Wagstaff, died because of AIDS-related complications in 1987. After Sam’s death, Mapplethorpe became a strong supporter of the American Foundation for AIDS Research and contributed to AIDS medication research. To focus more on AIDS research, he established the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

Sadly, Mapplethorpe’s vibrant career was cut short as he died at the age of 42 on March 9, 1989, because of AIDS-related complications. Like many other optimistic artists, Mapplethorpe couldn’t hide the pain and sadness of contracting AIDS, and his feelings occasionally surfaced in his art. If we study his photographs today, there is a noticeable perceptible shift in his self-portraits tone during 1986, which is the year he was diagnosed. By 1988, the disease had wreaked havoc on his body, so he used his camera to take out some of his frustration. He joined other artists who were working to address the AIDS crisis, including Felix González-Torres, Keith Haring, an David Wojnarowicz.

Rudolf Nureyev

Nureyev is still to day consider one of the greatest ballet dancer, choreographer and director who, in 1961, defected from the Soviet Union. Throughout his life, he denied having AIDS. His doctor Michael Canesi, who treated Nureyev for pericarditis, confirmed that he was diagnosed in 1984. Nureyev died in 1993 because of AIDS. Later, Canesi stated that Nureyev didn’t want to reveal his illness to prevent damage to his career.

“The main thing is dancing, and before it withers away from my body, I will keep dancing till the last moment, the last drop.”

In the end, his love of dancing meant more than anything to him.

Amanda Blake

TV fans and viewers remember Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty from the famous 1960s T.V. show Gunsmoke. Blake was also the first celebrity to die from HIV-AIDS. However, her cause of death, reportedly, was oral cancer. Blake’s doctor later revealed that she was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. The doctor also stated that she died of liver failure as she had hepatitis, which was caused by AIDS. The actress died in August 1989. It is believed that she got AIDS from her former husband, Mark Spaeth, who died of AIDS in 1985.


The famous rapper from N.W.A and the subject of the critically acclaimed movie Straight Outta Compton died a few weeks after getting diagnosed with AIDS. He was just 31 when he learned that he had the virus. Though it isn’t clear how he got the virus, while giving an interview to the L.A. Times, Eazy-E revealed that he had seven children from six mothers.

Isaac Asimov

The legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov died of heart and kidney failure in 1992. However, the main cause behind the organ failure was AIDS. Reportedly, Asimov got the virus from a blood transfusion while he was undergoing heart surgery in 1983. His diagnosis of AIDS remained a secret until his wife edited and published his last written book It’s Been a Good Life in 2002.

Arthur Ashe

Ashe is regarded as the man who successfully ventured into professional tennis after breaking the decades-old color barrier. In April 1992, Ashe revealed that he got AIDS because of a blood transfusion when he went for heart surgery. After publicly disclosing his condition, Ashe dedicated his life to raising awareness about AIDS. He even spoke about HIV at the United Nations. Ashe died in February 1993 due to complications arising from AIDS.

Michael Jeter 

Jeter learned that he had AIDS in 1996. Famous for his roles in Evening Shade, Sesame Street, and Grand Hotel, Jeter didn’t shy away from disclosing his health condition. He went public about his diagnosis of AIDS during an interview he gave to Entertainment Tonight. Jeter breathed his last in 2003 at the age of 50.

Tommy Morrison

Morrison is remembered for his role in Rocky V. He was a professional boxer and a celebrity. In 1996, Morrison announced his retirement during a news conference, and also revealed that he was HIV positive. However, later he got involved in a spat with the HIV medication AZT and even denied that he had AIDS. Morrison died when he was just 44 due to an undisclosed illness in 2013.

Gia Carangi (1960-1986)

Carangi was the world’s first-ever true supermodel and one of the first famous females to die of HIV. She appeared on the cover of almost every international magazine, including 4 international editions of Vogue and 5 editions of Cosmopolitan magazine. Moreover, she worked for nearly all mainstream brands, including Versace, Armani, and Christian Dior. All this, she achieved by the age of 22. Carangi never hid her sexual orientation and had affairs with female photographers, designers, and makeup artists. At 26, she died due to AIDS-related complications. Reportedly, Carangi contracted the virus because of using injectable drugs. In 1998, a biopic titled Gia was produced by HBO in which Angelina Jolie essayed the role of Carangi.

Elizabeth Glaser (1947-1994) 

Glaser became a staunch activist for AIDS after contracting the virus while giving birth to her daughter Aerial. Reportedly, she received an HIV-contaminated blood transfusion. Sadly, Aerial died in 1988 after contracting AIDS through breastfeeding, and Glaser’s unborn son contracted it in the uterus as well. The same year when Aerial died, Glaser co-established the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to raise awareness about the risk of HIV in children. She died due to AIDS-related complications in 1994. To this day, her foundation’s HIV care and support program is actively working and has reached out to over 20m females worldwide. 

Perry Ellis (1940-1986)

Ellis’ unusual dressing sense garnered him extraordinary fame. He had a penchant for wearing over-sized jackets, hand-knitted sweaters, and khakis. So popular was his style that The New York Times claimed he had glorified the All-American look. After his death, the cause of his death was reported to be viral encephalitis. However, soon enough, rumors emerged that he was HIV positive. The suspicion was strengthened after his business partner and lover Laughlin Barker died of AIDS-related cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma. 

Halston (1932-1990)

Legendary fashion designer Halston was famous for his minimalist style and love for Ultrasuede and Cashmere. He designed for many well-known celebs and public figures, including Jackie Onassis, Liza Minnelli, and Andy Warhol. He frequently visited the 70s nightlife hotspot in New York, the Studio 54 discotheque. Victor Hugo, who was a famous window dresser, was reportedly his lover. In 1990 Halston died due to AIDS-related cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Derek Jarman (1943-1994) 

derek jarman

This forward-thinking, critically acclaimed British movie maker raised eyebrows with his cinematic masterpieces during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Jarman was known for exploring dark and unconventional gay and politics-oriented themes. From Shakespeare to Royalty and AIDS, there’s no such subject that he didn’t try to tackle through his movies. Jarman had a somewhat experimental approach to film making. All his films had some strong messages to convey. In fact, Edward II, with which Tilda Swinton rose to stardom, is regarded by critics as a modern-day classic. Jarman was an avant-garde director for sure who never hid his sexual orientation and even disclosed his HIV diagnosis, which took his life in 1994.

Klaus Nomi (1944-1983)

Nomi was an eccentric singer who is still remembered worldwide for his beautiful voice, electric performances, and stylish costumes. After earning unprecedented fame in his native country Germany, Nomi decided to venture into Hollywood. Nomi quickly won the New York City crowds’ love and admiration, sang for David Bowie on Saturday Night Live, and appeared in movies. He is among the first few celebrities who died of AIDS-related complications in 1983.

Brad Davis (1949-1991)

After appearing in Midnight Express, Davis earned fame, a story about the horrifying experiences of American prisoners in a Turkish prison. Despite being straight, Davis took on gay roles and even did the play The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer and the movie Querelle. In 1985, he was diagnosed with AIDS, but he chose to keep the news secret. However, Davis published his autobiography just before he died in which he wrote that he kept his illness a secret so that he could continue working for his family.  

Timothy Patrick Murphy

Murphy is among the youngest American actors who died of AIDS. It is speculated that he contracted HIV from Brad Davis, whom Murphy was rumored to be linked. Davis, a bisexual, also died from HIV/AIDS. Timothy breathed his last on December 6, 1988, and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Hollywood Hills.

Peter Allen (1944-1992)

This songwriter was introduced to Americans by Judy Garland. He is considered one of the most inspiring Australian celebrities to have entered Hollywood. Allen is most famous for his song Arthur’s Theme, which he wrote in collaboration with several others. He also served many well-known celebrities as a songwriter, such as Frank Sinatra, Carly Simon, and Olivia Newton-John as a songwriter. Allen married Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, but the coupled divorced after spending seven years together. Later, Allen entered a live-in relationship with his longtime partner Gregory Connell. Connell died due to AIDS-related complications in 1984, while Allen died from AIDS-related throat cancer in 1992. A musical titled The Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman was made on the life of Peter Allen.

Lance Loud (1951-2001)

Loud is one of the first reality show participants in the world. He appeared on PBS’s American Family in 1973. Lance immediately developed a huge fan following, as, by the second episode, around 10 million viewers were hooked to the show. It would be fair to state that Lance Loud, Loud family’s eldest son, forever transformed the television landscape. He moved to New York later to form a band that he named The Mumps. Eventually, Lance became America’s gay icon. He contracted HIV and developed Hepatitis C. In 2001, Lance Loud died because of liver failure.  

Steve Rubell (1943-1989)

In 1977 Rubell and his business partner Ian Schrager established Studio 54, which quickly became New York’s most hip and happening discotheque. The club was frequently visited by the who’s who of the entertainment industry. Some of the regular visitors of the disco included Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Bianca Jagger, Halston, Diana Ross, Cher, and Madonna. Tragedy struck when Rubell got convicted for evading tax in 1979. After that incident, many claimed that New York’s nightclub scene was never the same. In 1989, Rubell died of AIDS-related complications, including septic shock, and hepatitis.

Chris Smith

Lord Chris Smith started his career as the U.K.’s Member of Parliament and was chosen the Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment. He quickly became a famous politician in Britain and was later selected as the state secretary for the National Heritage, Health and finally Culture, Media and Sport. There are many career firsts associated with Smith. For instance, in 1987, he was the country’s first-ever Member of Parliament, who proudly disclosed that he was gay. For this reason, Smith received backlash back then. Smith now serves as the Cambridge Union Society’s Chairman of Trustees and the Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge.