A few days ago, The Sun published a report about the mystery Hollywood actor that had been living with HIV…
Their headline suggested fear and scandal. Their reporting was thoughtless, tactless and wrong.
Whilst the Hollywood icon wasn’t named, many people began to speculate that Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men star and notorious party boy, was the man in the silhouette image.
Let’s begin with this: It was not our business and it is still not our business.
To talk about someone’s health is wrong. This is a disease, one that can really mess things up. It can be a disaster. Yes, it’s treatable. But being told you have HIV isn’t something you’re just going to forget and move on from.
Charlie Sheen found out four years ago that he had contracted the virus, which cannot be cured but can be treated. Four years ago was the time Charlie was documented with drugs and prostitutes. Four years ago, Charlie Sheen was told something life changing. His way of coping was to act like nothing had happened. His way of coping was to go back to his escape route – drugs, alcohol and sex.
‘I’m here to admit that I am in fact HIV positive’, Charlie Sheen told the Today Show this morning.
Well done to Charlie for having the courage to come forward and admit this. But, did he really have to? It’s a shame that he put his trust in someone, who sold him out and went to the press, with what they thought was ‘juicy gossip’. This is a mans health, something that he clearly wanted to keep private, and something that he was probably not ready to talk about. Yet he felt like he had to, because the press and the public were prying. They were dying to know who the star with HIV was.
When the reports came out, it was said that the actor faces legal battles with those he has put at risk. To know you have HIV, but continue to share needles and have unprotected sex is a court offence. It’s endangering others. However, Charlie has said every partner of his knew he had HIV, and he always used a condom, except for with two women.
If Charlie has in fact continued to put people at risk, they are in every right to want legal action taken. I’m not condoning that, if it did happen.
However, the way the media has reported on this story is completely wrong. It’s barbaric. The National Enquirer uses the headline ‘CHARLIE SHEEN AIDS COVER UP’. A source says he has had male and female partners, despite Charlie being straight and never before hinting at any male partners.
They’re reinforcing the stigma that is already attached to HIV, and are trampling over all the hard work campaigners for the disease have fought to eradicate.
To report on this issue and make it a huge scandal is disgusting. To hint that he has had relationship with men, therefore implying that he must have contracted the virus through gay sex, is uneducated.
You may ask why Charlie felt the need to go on TV to announce he has a condition that over 100,000 people in the UK live with – his answer is a reflection of the press:
I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that are about me, that threaten the health of so many others that couldn’t be further from the truth.
He felt like he had to tell the world, because people would speculate on his condition. He would forever be asked if he had the virus, and he would forever be plagued with the rumour.
To feel like you have to tell someone, whether you’re ready or not, is sad. It is not our concern if Charlie Sheen has HIV. It is none of our business how he got it.
Sheen revealed that he has had to pay millions to keep people quiet. They were not sexual partners, merely those who had seen his medication or learnt of his condition and threatened to reveal all.
In and around this perplexing and difficult time I dazedly choose or hired the companionship or unsavory or insipid types. Regardless of their saltless reputations, I always led with condoms and honesty when it came to my condition. Sadly, my truth soon became their treason as a deluge of blackmail and extortion took center stage in this circus of deceit.
During his interview, he added:
I think I release myself from this prison today.
Yes. He is free. No doubt Sheen feels relief that now everybody knows he has the disease. No one will need to speculate anymore. Awareness for this disease can be raised. Funds can be secured for the cure.
But that is pretty much the only good thing that has come out of this whole situation.
Charlie’s doctor joined the conversation, and confirmed that it is not AIDS. He said:
He is healthy. He does not have AIDS.
He is healthy. Because HIV can be treated. Life can be just as it was before.
Whilst it is a potentially life threatening, life altering disease, it is by no means a death sentence.
I can only hope that through this ordeal, we don’t scaremonger. We don’t treat this as a scandal. We don’t make fun.
Instead, we gain awareness. We understand HIV and AIDS better. And I can only hope that Charlie now feels released from this speculation and witch hunting that he has no doubt suffered.