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10 Celebrity Icons of HIV Activism

Sir Elton John 

Sir Elton John has always been outspoken, which is why he wasn’t afraid to fight HIV and AIDS in a time when many celebrities were afraid to be attached to the disease. In 1992 he founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which supports HIV prevention, education, and supports people living with HIV. John was inspired to start the organization by his young friend Ryan White, who died of AIDS complications in 1990 after being infected with HIV through a blood transfusion. Today, the organization is as strong as ever and has raised over $321 million in over 55 countries to date.


Joan Rivers PUBLICITYX633 0
Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers was many things: a comedic legend, a feminist trailblazer, an uproarious fashion critic, and an unconventional but devoted mother and grandmother. But with all the zings, sling,s and punch lines that made up the persona of Joan Rivers, she was also a relentless HIV activist with a lion’s heart. Rivers began her advocacy work decades ago when she first started volunteering with God’s Love We Deliver, a nonprofit organization delivering food to HIV and AIDS patients in New York City. In 2009, when she won Celebrity Apprentice, she gave all of her earnings from the show to the organization. Her prize money bought 56,000 meals.


Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus may have shocked the nation with some of her more wild musical endeavors, but the former Disney star is quickly proving herself as an intelligent, talented and purposeful individual with a drive for social change. When the “Wrecking Ball” singer showed up to the 2014 amfAR L.A. Inspiration Gala, her barely-there dress got people’s attention. But it was her $500,000 check to fight AIDS that left them in shock.

"It’s so important for me of all people to represent because I have a voice and I want to start an open dialogue about prevention," Cyrus told Variety. "Obviously I’m not too embarrassed to talk about these things, especially with young people."


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the amount raised by the Elton John AIDS Foundation.


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