Charlie Sheen admits he is HIV positive: Other celebrities diagnosed with the infection

(From left) Michael Jeter, Magic Johnson and Arthur Ashe.
(From left) Michael Jeter, Magic Johnson and Arthur Ashe.PHOTOS: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ AFP

Rumours that Charlie Sheen might be announcing that he is HIV positive has taken Hollywood by storm. However, the 50-year-old is not the first Hollywood star to be linked to the infection.

Nearly 37 million people are now living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), according to statistics from amFar, the Foundation for Aids Research, with about 5,600 people contracting HIV daily.

HIV, which can lead to the acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or Aids, is not uncommon among celebrities including sports stars.

Here are some famous names who have opened up about being diagnosed as HIV positive:

Freddie Mercury


PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Flamboyant Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991, confirmed he was HIV positive two days before his death.

He had earlier denied that he had the virus and by then, it had developed into Aids.

He died in 1991 at the age of 45, due to Aids-related pneumonia.

According to a Daily Mail report written by Mercury's friend, David Wigg, the iconic singer was said to have lived with the knowledge he was HIV positive for seven years before his death.

Mercury was treated for his infection at home, with medical supplies arriving in secret, hidden in record cover sleeves and boxes, Wigg added.


Magic Johnson


PHOTO: AFP

In November 2001, one of the most popular US sports figures, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, declared at a news conference that he was HIV positive, and retiring from basketball.

Johnson, who won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, had only found out he had the virus a few days earlier, after taking a blood test in connection with a life insurance policy.

The basketball player, who was 32 at that time, was certain he was infected "by having unprotected sex with a woman who has the virus". He denied having a homosexual experience.

Johnson, who is now an analyst with ESPN, recently had to dispel rumours that he had special treatment to cure his infection. He said at a radio interview that he is not cured - he has the same access to the drugs as everyone else, and that the the virus is just "laying asleep" in his body.


Michael Jeter


Michael Jeter at the 44th Emmy Awards. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ALAN LIGHT

Emmy Award-winning actor Michael Jeter learnt that he was HIV positive in 1996. He only revealed his condition a year later.

Known for his role as Mr Noodle on Sesame Street, the actor said one of the reasons he was so vocal about his illness was that he wanted others in the industry to be unafraid, too, and not hide beneath a lie.

He believes his condition did not stop him from getting acting gigs, although he said that other actors tried to hide their infection for fear that they would lose their jobs.

"Every time an actor does a job, he has to have a physical to assure that he's healthy enough to complete a film," Jeter said. "The forms you fill out ask if you're being treated for anything. It would be easy to say no. Well, I didn't want to commit insurance fraud or a felony. I have HIV, but I'm perfectly healthy. Why not say that?"

Jeter was found dead at home on March 30, 2003. He was 50 years old. Jeter's publicist said he had been ill.


Robert Reed


Actors Robert Reed (left) and Florence Henderson from The Brady Bunch. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

US actor Robert Reed who played father Mike Brady in popular sitcom The Brady Bunch, kept his HIV positive diagnosis a secret until his death in 1992 at the age of 59.

He also kept it a secret that he was gay.

While the cause of his death was colon cancer, his death certificate indicated that he was also infected with HIV.

Reed's children in the TV series who called him their "surrogate father", told ABC that they knew his secret, even though they did not bring it up.

Reed "was as good or better a father figure than my own dad", said actor Christopher Knight who played the middle brother Peter.

Susan Olsen, who played Cindy, said Reed "never allowed himself to have a genuine love".

"He was forever taunted by his own disdain for the natural inclinations that he was born with," she said in an interview with The Daily Mail.

"Bob was a family man. Had he been allowed to form a relationship with another man, he would have been the best husband ever and might still be alive."


Arthur Ashe


PHOTO: ARTHURASHE.ORG

Former United States Open and Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe believed he contracted HIV through a transfusion of tainted blood during his second round of heart-bypass surgery in 1983.

Ashe learned of his infection when he had to undergo emergency brain surgery in September 1988. He was hospitalised after he suffered paralysis of his right arm. A subsequent biopsy revealed the presence of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection linked to Aids.

Ashe did not disclose his condition until April 1992, only after being told that USA Today intended to publish an article about his infection as soon as it could confirm it, reported New York Times. He said he had known about his condition for more than three years.

"I am angry that I was put in the position of having to lie if I wanted to protect my privacy," he said at an emotional press conference.

After his public admission, Ashe spent the rest of his days campaigning for public awareness.

Ashe died of pneumonia, an Aids complication, in February 1993 at the age of 49.