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10 Amazing HIV-Positive Gay Men

10 Amazing HIV-Positive Gay Men


From Freddy Mercury to Vito Russo, there have been thousands of amazing gay and bisexual men who have lived with HIV. In honor of LGBT pride month, we're celebrating 10 of our favorite gay men who are reinventing what it means to be HIV-positive in 2013 simply by being themselves.

Los Angeles
Olympic Diver
Greg Louganis is an actor, dancer, dog trainer, and AIDS, equality, and diversity activist, and he’s also considered the greatest diver in history. Currently a coach on ABC’s celebrity diving competition Splash, he’s also a judge for this summer’s International Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. Louganis won his first Olympic medal at the age of 16. At 24, in the 1984 games, he became the first man in 56 years to win two Gold Medals in diving. Four years later he became the first to win double Gold Medals for diving in two consecutive Olympics. 
He’s a five-time world champion and holds 47 national championship titles. 
In the mid 1990s Louganis revealed to the world that he was gay and HIV-positive, which resulted in the loss of most of his corporate sponsorships. Louganis has certainly rebounded and achieved much since then. He’s building up his acting career, having appeared onstage (in Jeffrey) and in film (D2: The Mighty Ducks), and he recently guest-starred in the Web series Old Dogs & New Tricks. —Clea Kim
New York City
TV Personality & Founder of
It’s hard to imagine that Jack Mackenroth was only 4 foot 11 in high school, but it’s a fact his younger sister, Sarah, likes to share with the media. (And the fact that Mackenroth liked to steal her Barbie dolls.) The muscled designer turned pinup turned activist was kind of a runty late bloomer. But boy, has he bloomed.
After a childhood in Seattle with a single mom and two siblings, Mackenroth entered the world of fashion via the famed Parsons School of Design. He began modeling, and through the 1990s he appeared in dozens of publications, including Men’s Fitness and Paper magazines. Not long after leaving Parsons, Mackenroth ran his own menswear store (Jack, in New York’s West Village), then had stints designing for Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, and Weatherproof. Somewhere along the way he found time to swim competitively, winning three all-American titles, setting a national breaststroke record, and finishing 12th in that event at the 2006 World Masters Championships. This was a man who succeeded in everything he did.
But priorities changed for Mackenroth in 2007, when he became a contestant on Project Runway’s fourth season. He was never in the bottom three, and in episode 3 he won the menswear challenge. He was a designer to beat. Then in episode 5, Mackenroth became the first designer to leave Project Runway for medical reasons; he had developed a contagious drug-resistant staph infection. Mackenroth came out to his castmates—and America—about being HIV-positive and needing to take extra care with his health. He left the show, spent a week in a hospital, and found his calling.
Today, Mackenroth, who still designs, especially for charity (in 2008 he created a wedding gown made entirely of condoms for San Francisco’s Project Inform), is an HIV activist and one of the few HIV-positive celebrities who uses his status to change how people think about HIV. He’s worked with a number of HIV/AIDS charities, and now he’s started a dating site for HIV-positive men, Volttage. 
Diane Anderson-Minshall

10gaymen2BILL T. JONES
New York City
Choreographer, Dancer, Writer, & Multimedia Artist
Bill T. Jones has received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Tony and Obie awards, and the Kennedy Center Honors for his innovative choreography, along with many other accolades. He’s also a long-term survivor of HIV, having been diagnosed with the virus in 1985, and he’s still creating dance works that excite audiences around the world.
This spring the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is touring with a show called Play and Play: An Evening of Movement and Music, which includes Story, one of Jones’s first new repertory works in over a decade, and his 1989 modern-dance classic D-Man in the Waters. In January another new work, A Rite, had its world premiere at the University of North Carolina. Jones and SITI Company artistic director Anne Bogart collaborated on this piece, dealing with the impact of Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary musical composition The Rite of Spring, which marks its 100th anniversary this year. Further performances of A Rite are scheduled at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., in July.
While the audience for modern dance may be rather specialized, Jones has proved his art has broader appeal with his work in Broadway musicals. He received the Tony Award for Best Choreography in 2007 for Spring Awakening and in 2010 for Fela! He also conceived and directed the latter show, based on the life of Nigerian Afrobeat musician and political activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who died of AIDS complications in 1997. Fela! continues to tour this year, with Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child in the cast; upcoming stops include Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, and Oakland, Calif.
Jones, who lost his partner in life and work, Arnie Zane, to AIDS in 1988, has often dealt with AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses in his dance and multimedia pieces. Still/Here, which premiered in 1994, mixes dance, song, and video to tell the stories of people dealing with serious illnesses; The New York Times called the result “a true work of art, both sensitive and original.” Jones confronted his own mortality in his solo dance Last Night on Earth, also the title of his autobiography.
But that last night hasn’t come, and Jones is most emphatically still here and still creating. His work is “a spiritual activity” and “a worldview,” he told North Carolina’s Indy Week in an interview in connection with A Rite’s premiere. “It is a privilege,” he added, “to go into a studio every day and make something.” —Trudy Ring

New York City
Activist & Blogger
It has been one of the most visible years on record for Peter Staley, for whom life with HIV has meant a lifetime of activism. He was a 24-year-old Wall Street bond trader when he was diagnosed as positive in 1985. Like many people with a life-threatening condition, he found religion, only in his case it was the religion of direct action on behalf of people with HIV. In 1987 he began volunteering with ACT UP, where his advocacy included facing off with über-homophobe Pat Buchanan on national TV, helping to shut down trading at the New York Stock Exchange, and, most memorably, organizing the installation of a giant condom over antigay senator Jesse Helms’s home. 
He helped found Treatment Action Group in 1992, then launched the website in 2000. In 2008 he sold the site to Poz magazine, the publication for which he continues to write about HIV. Staley features prominently in David France’s documentary How to Survive a Plague, and when the film won a GLAAD Media Award in March, he reminded the ceremony’s audience that AIDS has not gone away. “Nearly 7,000 gay men still die from AIDS in this country each year,” he said. —T.R.

Reno, NEV. 
Champion Figure Skater
Val Joe “Rudy” Galindo, three-time national champion figure skater, was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in January. Galindo competed in pairs skating with Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi, earning the pair National Champion titles in 1989 and 1990. And in 1996, Galindo earned top honors as U.S. National Champion in men’s figure skating.
Born to Mexican-American parents in San Jose, Calif., in 1969, Galindo grew up to become the first Latino national champion in U.S. figure skating. In 1996 he became the first male champion in any sport to come out as gay while still competing. 
In 2000, after a prolonged bout with pneumonia, Galindo was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Galindo courageously shared his status with the world in an interview with USA Today  just months after his diagnosis, and he continues to be an active advocate for HIV awareness. 
“I didn’t want to hide this illness,” Galindo told USA Today sports reporter Christine Brennan in 2000. “I didn’t want to live a lie. I’ve always wanted to be truthful... I know this: I’m enjoying life so much, I’ll do anything to survive.” —Sunnivie Brydum

10gaymen6GREG HARRIS
Illinois State Representative
Illinois State Representative Greg Harris, one of only a handful of openly HIV-positive legislators ever elected in the nation, is working to make life better for HIVers and many others. He’s the chief House sponsor of the state’s pending marriage equality bill, as he was for the civil unions law that passed in 2010. As a member of the legislature since 2007, he’s advocated for better services for people living with HIV and other diseases, such as breast cancer, as well as for health care reform in general. His other priorities include addressing the state’s pension funding crisis, improving its property tax system, aiding agriculture, and providing help to homeless and at-risk young people. Before being elected to the legislature, he was chief of staff to a Chicago City Council member for 14 years. His work has brought him awards from several AIDS service organizations, other grassroots community groups, and LGBT rights advocates including the Human Rights Campaign. Harris, diagnosed as positive in 1988, says he’s seen many colleagues keep on working while coping with other serious health conditions. “I consider it important to show that this is just another disease,” he says. —T.R.

10gaymen7FREDY CEJA
Los Angeles
Consultant to California State Senate Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg
Fredy Ceja became an HIV activist almost immediately after receiving his positive diagnosis in 2006, going to work for Bienestar, an organization that assists Latinos affected by HIV and AIDS. In 2009, Ceja was featured in the Soy/I Am video campaign, a partnership between the Kaiser Family Foundation and Univision aimed at reducing HIV stigma among Latinos and putting a face on the disease. The very busy Ceja has served on the California HIV/AIDS Planning Group, the Latino Advisory Board to the California Office of AIDS, the Los Angeles County HIV Commission, and the board of the Latino Equality Alliance, advocating for Latino LGBT rights. He developed a passion for politics on a visit to Washington, D.C., while he was in high school, and he became the first person in his family to attend college. In addition to his HIV and LGBT rights work, he is an activist for education and many other causes. He was a senior field deputy for California Assembly member Gilbert Cedillo until Cedillo was term-limited out of office at the end of 2012. Today, Ceja is working as a consultant to California state Senate pro tempore Darrell Steinberg, and in April he was honored for his HIV work at the Latin LGBT Awards in Los Angeles. —T.R.

New York City & Provincetown, Mass.
Journalist & Author
Andrew Sullivan seems to specialize in confounding expectations. The U.K. native first became famous in the United States in the 1990s as editor of  The New Republic, and his mix of identifiers — conservative, Catholic, and gay — forced some observers to rethink long-held assumptions. He’s continued to surprise people; while he still calls himself a conservative, he also describes himself as “an enthusiastic supporter (and occasional critic)” of President Obama. He was one of the first political writers to support Obama’s presidential aspirations, back in 2007. Among other milestones, in 1989 he wrote the first national magazine cover story endorsing marriage equality (he’s written books on this and other topics as well), and this year he formed an independent company, Dish Publishing, to publish his Web log The Dish, making it one of the few blogs to rely only on reader support. And he’s a long-term survivor of HIV; he was diagnosed positive in 1993 but remains healthy, active, and ever provocative. —T.R.

New York City
Activist & Former New York State Senator
When Thomas Duane first ran for a seat on New York’s City Council in 1991, he endured a knock-down, drag-out campaign against Liz Abzug, daughter of feminist leader Bella Abzug, during which Liz Abzug came out as a lesbian, and Duane came out as HIV-positive. Each accused the other of crass campaigning, but Duane prevailed. In 1998 he upped the ante by becoming the state’s first openly gay and openly HIV-positive state legislator. And upon his retirement from the state Senate in 2012 after 14 years of service, he was still one of very few positive lawmakers in the U.S.
During his time in office, Duane worked his way up to become the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, where he crafted key health care policy, including far-reaching HIV testing and clean syringe-access legislation. He also wrote, introduced, and lobbied for New York’s marriage equality legislation, which prevailed after a tough fight in the Senate. While attending City Council speaker Christine Quinn’s wedding last year with his husband, Louis Webre, he realized he was ready to quit commuting between his district in Manhattan and the capitol building in Albany and decided not to seek reelection. But that didn’t mean his career as an activist was over.
“I am going to fight for people and in my own small way try to make the world a better place,” he said. “I’m never going to stop doing that.” —Michelle Garcia

10gaymen10DAVID STERN
Los Angeles
Executive Director of Frontiers Awareness and Education Foundation and Publisher of Frontiers magazine
Since learning he was hiv-positive in 1988, David Stern has become a force in LGBT media in Los Angeles. Realizing that advances in treatment would allow him to “live a long, fruitful life,” he launched a new LGBT publication,  IN Los Angeles, with business partner Mark Hundahl in 1997. They went on to buy competing magazine Frontiers in 2007, and they merged it with IN.
Five years later, as Frontiers was celebrating its 30th anniversary, Stern fulfilled a longtime dream, launching a nonprofit arm called Frontiers Awareness and Education Foundation. Its mission is “to train and nurture the next generation of LGBT journalists to understand the full range of issues and subtleties within our diverse LGBTQ community” and “to provide multiple platforms for the range of LGBTQ voices to speak for themselves, to tell their own stories.” One of the foundation’s first projects is Diamonds in the Rough, a training, internship, and scholarship program for young LGBT people and straight allies who are interested in media careers.  — Christopher Rudolph
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