Time was when an HIV positive diagnosis was considered a life sentence – but thankfully, those days are far behind us.
Thanks to medical advances, HIV positive people who are responsive to antiretroviral treatment have the same life expectancy as the general population; such treatments also dramatically lower the person’s infectiousness.
Meanwhile, new preventative measures such as PrEP are also on the rise.
Despite this progress, stigma persists – as illustrated last month, when Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen revealed his status to the world.
So, to mark World AIDS Day (1 December), we thought we’d tip our hats to just some of the guys in the public eye helping to break down prejudice by standing up and talking about their statuses – before simply getting on with their lives.
1 John Grant
The Michigan-born, Iceland-residing singer, who released his third album to critical acclaim last month, has talked candidly about his status both on stage and in interviews. He said in 2013: ‘I guess one of the reasons I talked about it [publicly, the first time] was because I felt like I couldn’t and shouldn’t. Because I still feel ashamed. But I know there are a lot of men in the gay community going through this, and it was for them.’
2 Andy Bell
The Erasure star disclosed his status in 2004, after testing positive in the 90s. Last year he admitted: ‘The thing that’s tricky is when you’re traveling around so much, you have to make sure you have enough medication, especially on tour. We’ve got an Erasure tour coming up and that’s 90 shows. If there’s a flu bug going round you generally get it. You have to be so strong and healthy to carry them all through.’
3 Danny Pintauro
The former child star of TV show Who’s The Boss revealed his HIV status earlier this year. He said on The View in October: ‘I don’t want to be a hero, I don’t want to be the role model. I want to be the example. I want to be the example of what can happen if you get into drugs, if you’re being promiscuous, if you’re not taking care of yourself, if you’re not being checked, if you’re not living a healthy, responsible lifestyle.’
4 Greg Louganis
The US Olympic diver has been living with HIV since 1988, disclosing his status on national television in 1995. He recently told TIME: ‘I’m 55, and I’m here, and I’m married. It’s unbelievable. I never dreamed this day would be possible. People always ask “How are you doing? How are you doing really?” But my viral load’s undetectable, my T-cells are higher than they’ve ever been. I do acupuncture and Eastern treatments as well. There’s so many things happening in my life.’
5 Mykki Blanco
The queer artist, who identifies as trans/multi gendered, came out as HIV positive in a Facebook post earlier this year. He said at the time: ‘I’ve been HIV positive since 2011, my entire career. Fuck stigma and hiding in the dark, this is my real life. I’m healthy. I’ve toured the world three times but I’ve been living in the dark, it’s time to actually be as punk as I say I am.’
6 Branden James
The America’s Got Talent star has claimed the reaction to news of his HIV positive status was ‘less harsh’ then he anticipated. He also told aTEEN that while one guy said he wouldn’t date him because of his status, ‘It was a breeze when I told James [his partner] . He said to me: “A few years ago, you would have seen me run the other direction when you told me this. But now I’m educated about it and am completely comfortable.”’
Since disclosing in an emotionally charged episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ongina, also known as Ryan Ong Palao, has gone on to become the face of OraQuick, a home testing HIV kit, commenting: ‘I was 24, I had unprotected sex with a stranger who I trusted, who said he was HIV negative, but I came to find that he wasn’t. I was scared. I hadn’t known anyone who was HIV positive. I wanted to share my experience to the world. It’s not going to break me. It only made me better. You need to go get tested and know your status. It’s important.’