Robin Williams, the comedy icon and star of lauded films such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting (for which he received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) died at the age of 63 earlier this week. While many people know the actor for his spitfire comic sensibilities and his larger-than-life persona, fewer know that, having witnessed much suffering and death in his Castro neighborhood early in the AIDS epidemic, Williams became a booster of HIV/AIDS efforts, donating money and support to many groups, including amfAR, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the NAMES Project.
Tez Anderson, founder of Let's Kick ASS -- AIDS Survivor Syndrome, a group of long-term survivors, both HIV positive and negative, that honors the unique and profound experiences of living through the AIDS epidemic, posted this in remembrance on Facebook:
Many HIV/AIDS organizations that had seen Robin Williams' support over the years paid tribute to the departed celebrity on Twitter:
Others shared their hopes that Williams' death would shed a much-needed light on the challenges of living with depression.
Depression is extremely common among those living with HIV. Many stories of depression have been shared on TheBody.com over the years.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek help through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).
Williams lived with a mental illness that is still highly stigmatized and highly misunderstood, but if the tweets above are to believed, then something positive can come of this tragedy. And spinning tragedy into positivity is something Williams did like no other.
As Carol Burnett said, "Comedy is tragedy plus time." But Williams wasted no time in speaking out about AIDS hysteria at the height of the epidemic, as seen in this opening monologue from the Jan. 23, 1988 episode of Saturday Night Live.
Robin Williams Monologue: Safe Sex | Saturday Night Live - Yahoo Screen
Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.