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.
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12 Mike Beuttler
Michael Beuttler was a British Formula One driver. A gay man, Beuttler's sexuality was unique to the world of motor sports and continues to be today as he remains the only known gay F1 driver. In 1974, Buettler retired from the sport and 14 years later while living in Los Angeles at the young age of 48, he died from complications related to HIV and AIDS.
11 Glenn Burke
Known as baseball’s first openly gay player, Glenn Burke was an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics from 1976 to 1979. Burke was 27 when he walked out on Major League Baseball, as he made headlines after becoming the first MLB player to acknowledge their homosexuality during their playing days. In 1995, Burke died of AIDS-related complications. Burke was well ahead of his time. It's a big story today when an active professional athlete comes out, imagine what he went through back in the '70s. David Denson of the Milwaukee Brewers' rookie affiliate in Helena, Montana made some headlines when he came out last August and it's guys like Burke that paved the way.
10 John Curry
John Curry was a British figure skater. Curry received a gold medal in the men's singles at the 1976 Winter Olympics and went on to become the 1976 World Champion. That same year a German newspaper claimed that Curry was gay. In 1987, Curry announced that he was HIV positive and spoke openly to the press about both his disease and his sexual orientation. Four years later the disease transitioned into full blown AIDS and he died of an AIDS-related heart attack in 1994.
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.
He was sentenced to life in prison. In 1985 De Jesús' brother with whom he had shared needles, died of AIDS. After turning his life around Esteban suffered the same fate, and he died at the age of 37.
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
Gregory Louganis is an American Olympic diver and LGBT-rights activist. Louganis won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games on both the springboard and platform. After he tested positive for HIV in 1988, an openly gay Louganis recounted his story in a best-selling autobiography. He married in 2013 and is a mentor for the U.S. Olympic diving team and a motivational speaker.
6 Tim Richmond
Tim Richmond was an American race car driver, he made his debut at the Coca-Cola 500 in 1980. Richmond grew up in a wealthy family and lived a freewheeling lifestyle, earning him the nickname "Hollywood". Richmond passed away in 1989, at the age of 34, the secrecy surrounding the circumstance of his death causing speculation for several days. The Richmond family later held a press conference to reveal that Richmond died from complications from AIDS, which he acquired from an unknown woman.
5 Roy Simmons
Roy Simmons was an NFL guard for the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. He became the second former NFL player to come out as gay and the first to disclose that he was HIV-positive. Simmons came out of the closet on The Phil Donahue Show in 1992. Five years after his revelation, Simmons admitted that he was HIV positive. The former guard battled the deadly disease until 2014 when he passed away at the age of 57.
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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