Considered one of the greatest rock singers of all time, Freddie Mercury—born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar in 1946—fronted the influential British band Queen from 1970 until his death. He composed many of the group’s chart-topping hits, including “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Killer Queen.” Diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, Mercury continued performing with his characteristically electrifying stage presence despite his declining health. He disclosed his condition on November 23, 1991, saying, “I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.” He would pass away just one day later, on November 24. In the years that followed, the remaining members of Queen and other musicians raised millions for AIDS research in Mercury’s memory, organizing tribute concerts and establishing charities. (Credit: Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
In 1991, at a time when many AIDS sufferers faced rejection and discrimination due to ignorance about the disease, the American basketball star Magic Johnson announced that he had tested positive for HIV, saying, “It can happen to anybody, even me.” Johnson used his position as a high-profile athlete to speak out against the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS and to convince the public that people from all walks of life are at risk. His Magic Johnson Foundation has funded research, testing programs and awareness campaigns for the last two decades. Johnson, who manages his condition with antiretroviral drugs, has also served as an inspiration for those living with HIV and AIDS. (Credit: Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
A trailblazer for African-American men in professional tennis, Arthur Ashe was one of the most prominent players of his time as well as a devoted advocate for humanitarian causes. He contracted HIV while undergoing heart surgery in 1983 and announced he had AIDS in 1992. Ashe spent the last year of his life raising awareness about AIDS and its victims around the world, imploring the United Nations to address the epidemic as a global issue. He founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, which continues its outreach programs to this day. Ashe died of AIDS-related pneumonia on February 6, 1993.
After becoming popular in his native Uganda, the musician Philly Lutaaya toured the world with various bands and recorded the hit album “Born in Africa,” which showcased his skills as a singer and songwriter. In the mid-1980s, he became the first prominent Ugandan to disclose his HIV/AIDS status. He spent his final years writing songs about his struggle with AIDS and speaking about prevention at a time when the growing epidemic was a taboo subject. Lutaaya died on December 15, 1989.
One of the first well-known American women to put a public face on the AIDS epidemic, the American model and Playboy playmate Rebekka Armstrong revealed in 1994 that she had contracted HIV as a teenager. At the time, many people believed the epidemic only affected gay men. Now a competitive bodybuilder, Armstrong regularly lectures about safe sex and how to live with HIV and AIDS.