Among those worried they may have been passed the virus are an award- winning actress, a stunning movie star, a glamour model and a TV show favourite.
A ‘celebrity with a chequered history’ and a celebrated media personality are also said to fear they are victims.
According to reports, ‘decades of debauchery’ had ‘finally caught up with’ the womanising actor – said to be one of Tinseltown’s ‘megastars’.
But as he refuses to go public about his condition, there is feverish speculation on social media over his identity and anxiety among those who now believe they are at risk.
The showbiz website RadarOnline, which first broke the story, claimed that a ‘bad boy Tinseltown star’ had been hiding his ‘explosive secret’ having been diagnosed with the virus, which weakens the immune system and can develop into Aids.
Exactly how long he has been hiding it is unclear, but it understandably remains a critical point with the many women who have crossed his path. Clues to his identity include the fact that he is middle-aged and ‘notorious’ for a playboy lifestyle ‘filled with one-night stands and sex-for-hire partners’.
He has been ‘devastated’ since doctors diagnosed the condition at least two years ago. It is also claimed he has admitted engaging in activities that carry a risk of contracting the virus.
Yesterday, further claims were made by a newspaper that said the star’s lawyers are ‘braced’ for legal action from women he has consciously put at risk. A source told the newspaper: ‘It has now become common knowledge that this star is HIV positive, something he has known for a number of years.
‘The reality is that if he’s knowingly put women at risk then that’s disgusting, and it’s only a matter of time before that becomes public.’
The star’s friends have reportedly urged him to admit his condition publicly, claiming it could help combat the spread of HIV – which affects nearly 108,000 people in the UK – if such a high-profile, heterosexual star is identified as a sufferer. Yesterday, websites like Twitter and Facebook were teeming with amateur sleuths offering their opinions and naming names.
Many have opted for a handful of stars, all with a reputation for womanising.
HIV campaigners, who have sought for years to combat hysteria over the virus, are deeply alarmed by the furore. A spokesman for Britain’s Terrence Higgins Trust said that anyone diagnosed is ‘given treatment that reduces the amount of HIV virus to an ‘undetectable’ amount, and this means HIV cannot be passed on’.
However, that may be the case after treatment, but not before. The website RadarOnline claims the star in question told his friends in October 2013 that he was HIV positive. However, he has allegedly kept his condition secret – and even from other sexual partners – because he is terrified that his fans will turn against him, killing off his career.
The star reportedly believes he is ‘indestructible’, and took few precautions to protect himself and others, even though he was indulging in ‘high-risk’ behaviour.
The string of well known women said to have slept with the HIV positive actor aren’t the only ones fearful they have contracted the virus. The lothario is also said to have slept with a swathe of other women in Los Angeles.
It was claimed yesterday that the Hollywood A-lister has been paying a former lover $20,000 – about £13,000 – a month to suppress secret photos that reveal his condition.
A woman who is friendly with some of the actor’s girlfriends, said: ‘One girl had agreed to go on dates with the star and to sleep with him. She wasn’t a prostitute, just someone who was happy to meet him and be his girlfriend.
‘After a few dates and after sleeping together, she found the HIV medicine in a bathroom cabinet. Obviously she was shocked and angry. She had no idea he has HIV.’
The girlfriend photographed the medicine with her mobile phone and was tested for HIV. She was not infected, but threatened to publicise the photos. He has allegedly been paying $20,000 a month since then to ‘shut her up… she has been paid a lot of money’.
The source said Hollywood was a ‘small place… especially the circles that this star moves in’. Everybody is appalled at his behaviour. A lot of girls are getting tested and are worried about it.’
Though HIV is far more manageable to treat than it once was, the entertainment industry has long been uneasy about acknowledging its existence among celebrities. In 1985, Rock Hudson became the first high-profile actor to die from Aids. The 59-year-old had managed to keep it secret his entire career that he was gay.
Other HIV positive stars who died of Aids include singers Freddie Mercury and Liberace. Others, however, such as the heterosexual but highly promiscuous American basketball star ‘Magic’ Johnson have been living with HIV for decades.
According to friends of the mystery actor, ‘his worst fear is that he will be remembered not as a great actor, but as someone who contracted the disease. He has been tortured by the thought that his acting genius will be forgotten.’