The Many Faces of HIV/AIDS
In this two-page spread we wanted to showcase some of the famous people who had, or still have HIV. Some are recognizable like Freddie Mercury, others like Reggie Williams, maybe not so much. Some are gay, some straight. Some alive, some already passed on. Some contracted the virus through sex, others through blood transfusions or drug use. Some are known for their athleticism, others their activism. The one thing they all have in common is that they were, or are, infected with a deadly disease that has killed more than 600,000 people in the U.S. and tens of millions around the world.
Here we showcase just a few of the many faces of HIV.
Randy Shilts – Journalist and Author. Gay. He worked for the San Francisco Chronicle and closely covered the emerging AIDS epidemic. Most famous for his book And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, which detailed the early days of the epidemic. Died in 1994 at the age of 42.
Pedro Zamora – Activist and Reality TV Star. Gay. Most famous for his stint on The Real World: San Francisco where he was openly gay and openly positive. His time on the Real World brought international attention to the AIDS epidemic. Died in 1994 at the age of 22.
Greg Louganis – Competitive diver. Gay. Went on to win Olympic Gold at the 1988 Games despite striking the back of his head on the springboard during the preliminaries. Thirty-five minutes after the accident and after receiving stitches to his scalp, he resumed diving. The following day, he hit all 11 dives and easily won the Olympic Gold Medal. (www.GregLouganis.com)
Gia Carangi – Model. Bisexual. Some consider her to be the first supermodel. After she became addicted to heroin, her modeling career declined. Also one of the first famous women to die from AIDS. She died in 1986 at the age of 26. (www.GiaCarangi.com)
Rebekka Armstrong – Playboy Playmate. Lesbian. She appeared in Playboy’s September 1986 issue. She’s now a competitive bodybuilder, as well as an HIV/AIDS awareness activist, safe sex educator, and a spokeswoman for several HIV-related charity groups. (www.RebekkaArmstrong.com)
Robert Mapplethorpe – Photographer. Gay. He was known for his large-scale, highly stylized black and white portraits, photos of flowers and nude men, which featured homoeroticism. He died in 1989 at the age of 42. His work lives on through The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation (www.MappleThorpe.org), which also funds medical research in the fight against AIDS.
Reggie Williams – Activist. Gay. Former head of the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention, which focused on the plight of HIV-infected minorities. Also helped found the National Association of Black and White Men Together. He died in 1999 at the age of 47. (www.ReggieWilliams.net)
Elizabeth Glaser – Activist. Straight. Founded the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion and passed the virus to both of her children. Her daughter Ariel died in 1988. Glaser died in 1994 at the age of 47. (www.PedAIDS.org)
Ryan White – Activist. Straight. He was thrust into the national spotlight after being expelled from middle school because he had HIV. He contracted the virus after receiving a contaminated blood treatment for his hemophilia. He was diagnosed in 1984 and was given six months to live. The national attention turned him into a celebrity and spokesperson for AIDS research and public education. He surprised everyone by living five years longer than predicted but died in 1990, one month before his high school graduation. He was 18. (www.RyanWhite.com)
Arthur Ashe – Tennis player. Straight. Contracted the virus through a blood transfusion. Only black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open. Founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (www.ArthurAsheInstitute.org) to help address health conditions that disproportionately affect minorities. Died in 1993 at the age of 49. (www.cmgww.com).
Freddie Mercury – Singer. Gay. Lead vocalist for the rock band Queen. He was known for his flamboyant style and four-octave range. Rumored to have had HIV for years he never confirmed it until the night before his death. Died in 1991 at the age of 45.
Gaëtan Dugas – Patient Zero. Gay. He was a Canadian flight attendant who was named patient zero for the AIDS epidemic and at first was accused of spreading AIDS to many of the early victims. Later the theory was revised to include Dugas as part of a cluster of highly sexually active men who traveled frequently. Later still the theory was debunked entirely because the average length of time between sexual contact and onset of symptoms was 10.5 months when in fact the average length of time between contact and symptoms is closer to 10 years. Died in 1984 at the age of 31.