Rock Hudson (died 1985) – Rock Hudson was an American actor who starred in many films and several TV programmes. He was well renowned for his role in romantic comedies and as a romantic leading man (often acting opposite Doris Day), playing of his masculine looks. He was voted ‘Star of the Year’, ‘Favourite Leading Man’ and many other roles and completed around 70 films over four decades making him something of a Carry Grant-type figure. It was ironic in a way then that for all this time he was hiding his homosexuality and would succumb to, and eventually die of, AIDS at the age of 60.
Kimberly Bergalis (died 1991) – Kimberly Bergalis is an unusual addition to this list as someone whose fame actually came from their experience with AIDS as someone who would become a pivotal symbol in the debate regarding AIDS testing for health professionals. With no celebrity status before her debacle, it was a tragic way to acquire fame.
As the eldest of three daughters, Bergalis was born in 1978 and attended the University of Florida to major in business. Here she had two serious boyfriends but never lost her virginity and had never used any kind of drugs. In 1987 she had two molars removed by her dentist Dr David J Acer. Tragically, Dr Acer had been diagnosed with AIDS that year and shortly after Bergalis began to show symptoms herself. CDC tests suggested that it was Acer who infected Bergalis and several of his other patients. HIV can spread from patient to doctor, doctor to patient or even patient to patient via reusing unsterilized instruments (scalpels, hypodermic needles etc). Today almost all such instruments are disposable.
Freddie Mercury (died 1991) – Lead singer, composer, instrumentalist and front man in the band ‘Queen’, Freddie Mercury was a flamboyant and outwardly gay rock star who had many hits and achieved a high level of fame. Among his most successful hits were Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, Somebody to Love, Don’t Stop Me Now, We Are the Champions, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. When he was diagnosed as HIV positive he decided to hide this status from the general public and didn’t announce his illness until the day before he died which was a source of controversy among those who though he could raise awareness for illness. However his illness did find its way into the lyrics of his songs with tracks such as ‘The Show Must Go On’ and the never completed album ‘Made in Heaven’ strongly indicating his terminal condition.
Liberace (died 1987) – Liberace was a famous pianist and entertainer of Italian and Polish descent and was the highest paid entertainer in the world around the same time that Elvis and the Beatles. He public denied being homosexual (though it’s highly likely that he in fact was) and it remains a mystery how and when he became HIV positive.