Spotlight: Actors and Famous Personalities with HIV

Spotlight: Actors and Famous Personalities with HIV

The IU East LGBTQ+ Resource Team, Office of Diversity, Center for Health Promotion, Campus Library, and Aspire Indiana Health are hosting “You and me and HIV: A month of awareness and action for prevention” throughout March. In support of this, here are just a few examples of actors and iconic personalities who were HIV positive or who are currently open with their diagnosis.

Figure 1 Michael Jeter (from www.playbillcom)

Michael Jeter (1952-2003) was an actor of the stage, television, and films. Jeter won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1992 from his role as Herman Stiles in the television show Evening Shade and was nominated multiple times for Outstanding Guest Actor from his roles in Picket Fences (1993) and Chicago Hope (1996). He also won a Tony Award for his turn as a Jewish bookkeeper dying from cancer in the Broadway show Grand Hotel in 1990.

He starred in a variety of television shows and films, with notable roles in Sister Act II (1993), The Kingfisher (1991), The Green Mile (1999), Patch Adams (1998), Jurassic Park III (2001), Mouse Hunt (1997), and Open Range (2003). Many kids and younger adults today may still recognize him from his recurring role as “Mr. Noodle’s brother, Mr. Noodle” (1998-2003) from the Sesame Street segment “Elmo’s World.”

Figure 2 Jeter as Mr. Noodle and Elmo (from Muppet Wiki)

Jeter was also known for his activism; being openly gay throughout his career, being honest about his past struggles with substance abuse, and spotlighting AIDs issues after coming out as HIV positive in 1997.

Figure 3 Javier Muñoz (from

Javier Muñoz is a stage actor best known for his roles as playing the lead in the hit Broadway musicals In the Heights and Hamilton, but has also guest starred on television shows like Shadow Hunters, Quantico, Blindspot, and Elena of Avalor. He has been living with HIV since 2002 and has used his growing celebrity status to raise awareness on the stigma around HIV and other barriers that block those with HIV from seeking care.

Figure 4 Muñoz (right) with Lin Manual Miranda (from

As an activist, Muñoz has worked with organizations such as the Latino Commission on AIDS, RED, and Gay Men Health Crisis (GMHS). Muñoz was the recipient of the GMHC’s 2016 Howard Ashman Award for his activism in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In September of 2020, he joined the Board of Trustee for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. During the Covid-19 pandemic and initial shutdown of Broadway, Muñoz co-created the Broadway Relief Project, helping to bring together over 600 volunteers of Broadway actors, seamstresses, and other theater artists to create personal protective clothing for first responders.

Figure 5 Jonathan Van Ness (from

Jonathan Van Ness (1987-) is a hairdresser and self-care advocate best known for their role in the Netflix series Queer Eye. Van Ness has since become a popular TV personality, appearing in music videos like Taylor Swifts “You Need to Calm Down,” hosting the podcast Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, and authoring two books Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love (2019) and the children’s book Peanut goes for the Gold (2020).

Figure 6 Van Ness (center) with the cast of Queer Eye (from

Van Ness revealed in his 2019 memoir that he found out he was HIV positive when he was 25 years old. Initially, Van Ness was fearful about revealing their HIV status, but decided to come out to help break the stigma around HIV, showing that many people with HIV live healthy and productive lives.

Figure 7 Gia Carangi (from

While not an actor or a television star, Gia Carangi (1960-1986) was at one time a well-recognized personality and fashion icon. Carangi is considered one of the first major supermodels and was a familiar face among the fashion scene in the late 70’s and early 1980’s. She posed for the covers of British, French, and American Vogue, multiple issues of Cosmopolitan, and modeled in advertising campaigns for notable fashion houses like Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, and Christian Dior.

Unfortunately, Carangi’s career was short lived. She was a regular at Studio 54 and started abusing drugs, forming an addiction to heroin. By 1981, her career began to decline and despite attempts at sobriety and making a career comeback, she struggled the last few years of her life before dying at the age of 26. Carangi was one of the first famous women to die of AIDS related complications.

Figure 8 Carangi from various shoots (from

While she wasn’t an activist, Carangi’s death did help shift the narrative around one of many early misconceptions about AIDS in the 1980’s, that only gay men could contract the virus. Carangi’s story is tragic and not very well known, despite a biopic about her life staring Angelina Jolie in 1998. Her story is a reminder that HIV/AIDS affects people of all ages, races, religions, class, and sexual and gender identities. For this reason, we wanted to include Carangi as her story deserves to be remembered.

For more information and facts on HIV/AIDS, you can check out our HIV/AIDS Resource Guide. The IU East Campus Library also subscribes to several health-focused databases and we would be happy to assist you in researching HIV/AIDS or any other health-related topic, just Ask US! at or click this button:

For personal concerns, you can always reach out to IU East Center for Health Promotion and make an appointment for counseling, STD testing, visiting the food pantry, or find information on other health and wellness concerns.

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Michael Jeter

Ferber, Lawrence. “Michael Jeter; Though He was Small in Stature, Michael Jeter is Remembered as an Acting Giant by His Costars.” The Advocate, 13 May 2003, ProQuest.

“Michael Jeter.” Playbill: The Largest Broadway Database.

Javier Muñoz

“GMHC to Honor Broadway Star of ‘Hamilton: American Musical,’ Javier Munoz.” Targeted News Service, 12Sept. 2016, ProQuest.

Artavia, D. “Hamilton’s Javier Muñoz is Broadway’s Charitable Hero.” HIV Plus Magazine, 14 May 2020.

Jonathan Van Ness

“Jonathan Van Ness on Vulnerability and Living with HIV.” HIV Plus Magazine, 1 Dec. 2020.

Syme, R. “Jonathan Van Ness Thinks You Should Let Your Quarantine Hair Grow.” The New Yorker, 26 May 2020.

Gia Carangi

Alvarenga, G. “The First Supermodel, Gia Carangi, Died of AIDS 33 Years Ago. She’s Worth Remembering.” The Body: HIV/AIDS Resource, 2 Dec. 2019.

“The World First Supermodel: 50 Stunning Photos of Gia Carangi in the 1970s and 1980s.” Vintage News Daily, 18 Aug. 2018.

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