HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, in 2014, an estimated 36.9 million people were living with the HIV virus.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a pathogen spread through the blood and sexual contact. HIV causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, an unpredictable, incurable condition that deteriorates the immune system. As AIDS progresses, the body loses its ability to fight off infection.
It is estimated that 1.4 million men, women, and children have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
HIV and AIDS know no race, sex or religion.
On Nov. 7, 1991, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson shocked the world when he announced that he had contracted HIV, making Johnson the first high-profile athlete to come forward as being HIV-positive. At the time of Johnson's announcement, AIDS had become the no. 1 cause of death for men between the ages of 25 and 44. Well, 25 years later the now-56-year-old Johnson is going as strong as ever in his roles as a sports analyst, businessman and HIV activist.
While Johnson’s public announcement of his HIV-positive status in 1991 helped dispel the stereotype, many living with HIV and AIDS fight their battle behind closed doors. So much so that sports organizations such as the NFL have developed a comprehensive policy that should decrease the spread of HIV and any other blood-borne pathogens among players and medical staff.
At least four women, including his estranged wife, have accused MLB Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar of being HIV positive and having unprotected sex with them. Though he’s never publicly admitted to having AIDS, you don’t pay someone $15 million to shut up about your AIDS unless you actually have it, right? The HIV claims remain unfounded.
With that, let's acknowledge 12 athletes who have had to battle this virus in hopes of spreading awareness.
12 Mike Beuttler
11 Glenn Burke
10 John Curry
9 Esteban de Jesús
Esteban de Jesús was once considered Puerto Rico's best fighter. De Jesús debuted as a professional in 1969 and gained sudden prominence in 1972 with a first-round knockdown in a non-title fight at Madison Square Garden. Often overshadowing his career was a life filled with much controversy and scandal. De Jesús admitted publicly to using drugs during his boxing career and in 1980 after having injected himself with cocaine he became involved in a traffic dispute and fatally shot another driver in the head.
8 Bill Goldsworthy
William (Bill) Goldsworthy was the first hockey player known to have AIDS. A right winger, Goldsworthy played for three teams in the NHL for 14 seasons between 1964 and 1978. Goldsworthy struggled with alcoholism which eventually destroyed his career and his marriage. He admitted that he was dying from AIDS in an article in The Deseret News, as a result of drinking binges and unprotected sex with strangers. Bill died at the age of 51 in 1996.
7 Greg Louganis
6 Tim Richmond
5 Roy Simmons
4 Tommy Morrison
Tommy Morrison made his boxing debut in 1988 and caught the eye of Sylvester Stallone, who cast the budding boxer in Rocky V as Rocky Balboa's protege in 1990. Morrison retired from boxing in 1996 having won 48 of 52 professional fights after the Nevada Athletic Commission discovered that Morrison was HIV positive prior to a fight. Morrison acknowledged the disease, stating that it was the result of a "permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle" and promised that he would never fight again.
In 2006 Morrison attempted to make a comeback, claiming the results were false positives, he took tests for HIV that came back negative, but there was always a belief that he was faking these tests. In 2013 at the age of 44 Morrison passed away and it is widely believed that HIV/AIDS was the culprit of his untimely passing.
3 Arthur Ashe
Arthur Ashe is the first African American to win the men's singles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and the first black American to be ranked No. 1 in the world. He won three Grand Slam titles, ranking him among the best tennis players from the United States. In the early 1980s, Ashe was believed to have contracted HIV from a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery. He publicly announced his illness in April 1992 and began working to educate others about HIV and AIDS.
Ashe died from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1993. He was 49 years old.
Not a tennis fan and wonder why his name sounds so familiar? The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is an award that is part of the ESPYs, it is presented annually to individuals whose contributions "transcend sports". The award named after Ashe who dedicated himself to dismantling the barriers of poverty, privilege, racism and social stereotyping and in his later years broadened public awareness on the subject of AIDS.
2 Roberto Alomar
Roberto Alomar's case has been one of allegations, as his former girlfriend accused him of having unprotected sex with her, knowing that he was HIV positive and even had AIDS. Alomar had retired from baseball in 2005 due to health problems, but was never specific as to what. The lawsuit against Alomar reached a settlement, so it will remain an allegation.
1 Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson is the ultimate inspiration in terms of those who have had to suffer from the HIV virus. His diagnosis changed the perception around the disease and forced people to finally rethink and educate themselves on the disease. Magic had to retire from basketball with the highest assists per game average at 11.2.
Since retirement, Johnson has lived a full life, full of success as he's succeeded in many business ventures and has continued to educate people on the disease.
According to federal statistics, one out of 8 people infected with HIV are unaware of their status. Routine testing is painless and ensures that if you do get infected, you will begin getting treatment quickly. If you think you have been exposed to HIV, please find a place to get a free, confidential HIV test.
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