A Look at 5 Celebs Diagnosed With HIV/AIDS

5 Celebs With HIV/AIDS

Charlie Sheen

After weeks of speculation, on November 17, 2015, Charlie Sheen went public with his diagnosis of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) on the Today show. 

Before we take a closer look at Sheen and 4 other celebrities who have HIV or AIDS, it's a good idea to clarify the difference between HIV and AIDS.  The term AIDS refers to the third and most severe stage of HIV disease. 

Specifically, people with AIDS are diagnosed either by a drastically reduced CD4 T-lymphocyte count (a type of white blood cell with immune function) or after falling ill with an opportunistic infection like Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma or Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (previously known as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). 

Once you have AIDS, you always have AIDS even if you recover from some AIDS-related illness or your CD4 T-lymphocyte count goes back up.

In other words, people with AIDS are pretty sick and usually have had the HIV virus for some time.  Fortunately, because of astounding advances in the treatment of HIV (think antiretroviral cocktails), people with HIV are living longer and healthier AIDS-free lives.

Now on to Sheen ...

Celeb #1: Charlie Sheen

It should probably come as no surprise that legendary partier Charlie Sheen has been infected with HIV.  It shouldn't come as a surprise ... but somehow it does.

Sheen, who in 2010 was the highest paid actor in television as Charlie Harper on "Two and a Half Men," had a very public meltdown in 2011 and went to war with show creator Chuck Lorre.

Sheen's drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and sex-fueled lifestyle have been well documented in the media.  He has also openly discussed his proclivity for commercial sex workers and porn stars (remember his "goddesses").  In fact, one reason Sheen came forward was to stop blackmail occurring at the hands of a prostitute who had proof of his secret.

Apparently despite his excesses, Sheen is "winning" his battle with HIV and according to his physician is in viral suppression and has "undetectable" levels of virus in his blood. Sheen credits his health to a combination antiretroviral pill regimen that he has taken every day since he was first diagnosed in 2011.

Of the 1.3 million people in the United States, an estimated 30 percent routinely take antiretroviral medications that suppress the disease and are thus in viral suppression.  Many of these people go on to live long and healthy lives.   

Celeb #2: Tommy Morrison

Rocky fans remember Tommy Morrison as protagonist Tommy "The Machine" Gunn in "Rocky V."  Unfortunately, the Rocky franchise outlived this once explosive real-life professional boxer who died of AIDS at the age of 44 in 2013. 

FYI: The newest installment of the Rocky series, "Creed," was completed in 2015--a film that reunites Fruitvale Station director, Ryan Coogler, and film star, Micheal B. Jordan.

After filming "Rocky V," Tommy "The Duke" Morrison eventually parlayed his film success into a legitimate title shot.  He won the WBO title fight by decision over George Foreman in 1993.

Morrison first tested positive for HIV in 1996 after which he promptly retired.  In later years, Morrison attempted an (unsuccessful) comeback. 

After initially being diagnosed with HIV, Morrison contested his HIV positive status for years.  After years of denial from Morrison, however, in 2013 Morrison's mother told ESPN that her son had "full-blown AIDS" and was dying.

Celeb #3: Freddy Mercury

Freddy Mercury

Freddy Mercury was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and spent his youth in India.  In 1964, Mercury and his family moved to Middlesex in the United Kingdom.  By the 1970s, Mercury was the lead singer of Queen, one of the most influential rock bands ever to grace the stage.

Shortly after announcing he had the disease, Mercury died of AIDS in 1991.  After Mercury's death, Queen's remaining band members Brian May and Roger Taylor as well as their manager Jim Beach set up The Mercury Phoenix Trust, which according to its website, has donated more than 15 million dollars to HIV/AIDS-related causes.

Celeb #4: Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson

In 1985, Rock Hudson, a star of the silver screen, became the first major celebrity to die of AIDS.  Hudson is famous for acting as a handsome leading man most notably opposite Doris Day.  In 1956, Hudson was nominated for an Oscar.

For years, Hudson tried to conceal his sexuality and later his HIV status from the world in an apparent attempt to preserve his projected image as a ladies man.  Shortly before his death, however, it was revealed that Hudson was gay and did, in fact, have AIDS.

Celeb #5: Danny Pintauro

Danny Pintauro

In 2015, former child star Danny Pintauro, who starred on the Tony Danza-headlined 1980s sitcom "Who's the Boss?" revealed to Oprah Winfrey that he was HIV positive. 

Pintauro first came out in 1997.  He was infected with HIV in 2003.

Pintauro in part attributes his being infected with HIV to unprotected oral sex and his dependence on crystal meth which wore down his immune system.

Today, Pintauro is healthy, happily married and embracing his new-found role as an AIDS activist.

5 Celebs With HIV/AIDS


Even though we have an effective treatment for those with the HIV virus, we as of yet have no cure for the disease. 

The best way to deal with HIV is always prevention.  This virus can be prevented with the proper use of condoms.  (Condoms should also be used during oral sex.)

On a final note, within the first 3 days of exposure, post-exposure prophylaxis may prevent infection with the virus.  Post-exposure prophylaxis involves the immediate administration of HIV drugs--commonly after a needle prick.

Selected Sources

Fauci AS, Lane H. Human Immunodeficiency Virus Disease: AIDS and Related Disorders. In: Kasper D, Fauci A, Hauser S, Longo D, Jameson J, Loscalzo J. eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2015. Accessed November 18, 2015.

Article titled "Impact of methamphetamine on infection and immunity" by SA Salamanca and co-authors published in Frontiers in Neuroscience in 2014.  Accessed on November 18, 2015.

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