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Celebrities Besides Charlie Sheen Who Have Been Diagnosed With HIV

Originally regarded as a gay white man’s disease in the early 1980s, nearly three decades later it is the Black community that has been hit ...

Originally regarded as a gay white man’s disease in the early 1980s, nearly three decades later it is the Black community that has been hit the hardest by HIV and AIDS. 

Despite continuous messages of awareness and prevention, Blacks, who represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for nearly 46 percent of people diagnosed with HIV at the end of 2007, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide, there is an estimated 33.3 million people living with HIV and AIDS, and an estimated 1.8 million people died as a result of AIDS last year alone. The virus knows no boundary—whether you are homo or heterosexual, male or female, young or old, anyone can be at risk. Here’s a list of 11 activists that have joined the fight against AIDS:

Sheryl Lee Ralph
An AIDS activist for over 25 years, award-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph first took notice of how HIV/AIDS infiltrated and crippled our community in the early 1980s during her stint on Broadway in the classic, Dreamgirls. Back then, a mysterious disease was floating around called GRID (Gay Related Immune Disorder) that was killing gay men on Broadway and no one wanted to talk about it. As a memorial to the friends she lost to HIV/AIDS, Ralph founded The Diva Foundation in 1991, a national not-for-profit that uses music and entertainment to inform, educate and erase the stigma which is still attached to the disease. Ralph also wrote, directed and performed a one-woman play called Sometimes I Cry, which tells real life stories of women striving to cope with HIV/AIDS. Ralph is a national spokesperson for the National Minority AIDS council and sits on the boards of several AIDS organizations. In 2005, she received the United Nation’s first Red Ribbon Leadership Award for her tireless work with AIDS.

Maria Davis
Fifteen years ago, Maria Davis was a successful New York hip-hop promoter when her life took an unexpected twist. Davis, a single mother of two, was required to take an HIV test as a requirement for a life insurance policy she wanted to open. It never occurred to her that anything was wrong because she took an HIV test the year prior and had tested negative. Unfortunately, this time the test came back positive. She had contracted the disease from her soon-to-be husband. In 1998, Davis was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. Today, she speaks to countless young people and organizations about HIV/AIDS awareness and is the CEO of her own non-profit called Can’t Be

Marvelyn Brown
At the age of 19, Tennessee native Marvelyn Brown was a high school basketball and track star who suddenly found herself battling an unknown illness that doctors later found to be HIV. She contracted the disease from a man she was in a monogamous relationship with. Brown opened up to the world about her story in 2008 when her autobiography, The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive was published. Since her diagnosis, she has traveled around the U.S., Canada, Jamaica, Mexico South Africa and Rwanda and has spoken at over 100 colleges and universities nationwide about HIV/AIDS awareness. The 26-year-old is the CEO and an independent HIV consultant for Marvelous Connections.

MHydeia Broadbent
An international AIDS activist, Hydeia Broadbent has literally dedicated her entire life spreading the message about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. She was abandoned at birth and diagnosed as HIV-positive which advanced to AIDS by age 3. Her prognosis was that she would not live past the age of 5 but now at 26-years-old, she has clearly defied the odds. She debuted as an HIV/AIDS activist and public speaker at 6-years-old and by the time she was 12, Broadbent had appeared on national programs, spoke at a number of universities and has been featured in prominent publications. In 1996, she spoke about AIDS at the Republican National Convention. Today, she continues to be a speaker and activist, educating women between ages 13-35. Broadbent teamed up with Purple W.I.N.G.S, a non-profit youth development organization, as the HIV/AIDS program facilitator to educate young women in Las Vegas about abstinence and HIV/AIDS. 

Rae Lewis-Thornton
Rae Lewis-Thornton had aspirations for a career as a political strategist, having served as the national youth director for the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns. But she had to forgo that budding career when at 23 years-old she was diagnosed with HIV in 1986. Lewis-Thornton learned her status from the Red Cross, to whom she had donated blood. In 1994, she took one of the most courageous moves of her life when she publicly revealed her status on the December 1994 cover of Essence magazine. In the mid 90s, Lewis-Thornton served as a contributing editor for WBBM-TV, a CBS owned and operated television station for an ongoing series of first person stories on living with AIDS, for which she received an Emmy Award. She has also designed and handcrafted a line of fashion bracelets called The RLT Collection. Today, Lewis-Thornton serves as an ordained Baptist minister.
Celebrities Besides Charlie Sheen Who Have Been Diagnosed With HIV

Alicia Keys
After a trip to Africa in 2003 where she witnessed the impact AIDS can have, including orphaning children, devastating communities and stifling economic progress, Alicia Keys, along with her friend and longtime AIDS activist Leigh Blake, founded Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit dedicated to providing AIDS medication and support services to children and families who have been affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. KCA has raised millions of dollars and as of 2009, saved an estimated 45,000 lives. A global ambassador for KCA, Keys has led many well-known media initiatives, including the most recent Buy Life campaign, where people can scan a “Buy Life” bar code using the cellphone apps Stickybits or WiMO to provide medicine, food and shelter to those in need due to the disease. Keys is also the host of the annual Black Ball held twice a year in New York and London, which brings celebrities and philanthropists together to raise funds.