News / South Africa / Health

Hayden Horner
3 minute read
3 Dec 2018
3:24 pm

8 celebrities who are HIV positive activists

Hayden Horner

Lesego Motsepe, who was known for her role as Lettie Matabane in Isidingo, disclosed her status on World Aids Day in 2011.

Lesego Motsepe

Saturday, December 1 was World Aids Day and also the 30th anniversary of a disease that claimed countless lives and left experts in scientific and medical fields dumbfounded.

When the disease emerged, it was labelled as a gay man’s disease, leaving homosexuals exposed to all manner of stigma, abuse and violence. However, when it was revealed that Hollywood lady’s man Rock Hudson had contracted the virus, it became clear that HIV was everyone’s disease.

Three decades later, celebrities in South Africa and abroad increasingly are stepping up as ambassadors for change and positive living, in spite of the virus – fitting for this year’s World Aids Day theme of‚ “Know Your Status”.

Here are famous faces that used their celebrity and HIV status to advocate for compassion and awareness around HIV:


Thabang Sefatsa

The Former Roses FC and Tigers FC player made headlines by disclosing his status and by also encouraging other HIV-positive soccer stars to step up as role models.

Criselda Kananda

The radio Dj and social media personality was diagnosed almost 15 years ago when there seemed no hope in sight for pregnant moms and babies. Today, Criselda is the proud mother of three and serves on the board of the South African National Aids Council.

Criselda Kananda says South Africans need to have deeper conversations about HIV and Aids. Picture: Valentina Nicol.

Lesego Motsepe

Known for her role as Lettie Matabane in Isidingo, she disclosed her status on World Aids Day in 2011. “Our society had made this virus a monster and all it is, is a virus. I’m doing this for the voiceless people out there who just found out today, and know that I‘ve got their backs.”

Lesego died in 2014, two years after stopping ARV treatment.

Musa “Queen” Njoko

The popular Gospel artist, who was 22 when she was diagnosed, went public about her HIV-positive status in 1995 – at a time when treatment was not available in South Africa. She faced a lot of stigma and hostility but also found support to live a long and healthy life in spite of the disease.


Freddie Mercury

On November 23, 1991, Freddy Mercury made a public announcement that he had Aids. He died a day later but is remembered as one of the first global celebrities to speak out about his status.

Freddie Mercury

Magic Johnson

On November 7, 1991, the former LA Lakers Basketball star announced he was HIV-positive and raised the alarm about HIV transmission via unprotected sex. He’s since raised millions of dollars in funding for global HIV/ Aids research and continues to be one of the most famous people living with HIV.

Danny Pintauro

The former child star who shot to fame for his role in the 80s sitcom Who’s the Boss? told Oprah he is HIV-positive. He said he wanted to go public with his status because “it’s not something that people are talking about right now”.

AFP/File / Joe Klamar<br />Charlie Sheen was famously fired from

Charlie Sheen. Picture: AFP/Joe Klamar

Charlie Sheen

Sheen revealed in 2015 that he is HIV-positive and said he was making the announcement to help fight the stigma of HIV and to end smear campaigns against him.

Significant progress has been made in response to HIV/Aids since 1988, and UNAids estimates that three in four people living with HIV know their status.

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