The star, who's notorious for his wild behavior offscreen, revealed his illness on the Today show last Tuesday, but even before he did, there was a wave of judgment coming at him from the media. TMZ actually outed the star days before his interview, saying he kept his illness secret from former sexual partners who are now bringing legal action against him for endangering their health.
However, Sheen admitted all that and more in his exclusive interview with Matt Lauer. "I'm here to admit that I am, in fact, HIV-positive. And 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 threatening the health of so many others, which couldn't be farther from the truth," he said on Today.
According to the interview, Sheen was diagnosed four years ago and trusted only a select few with the extremely personal news. But sadly those people he thought he could rely on betrayed him, and as a result, he's now being painted as an incredibly reckless individual — not someone who's suffering from a potentially life-threatening health condition.
Living with HIV is not easy, even without all the possible legal allegations and onslaught of judgment with which Sheen is now dealing. He says it started with "crushing headaches" that he thought was indicative of a brain tumor at first. Now he's constantly managing his health and taking four pills a day but his family and doctors are worried about the toll the diagnosis will eventually take on his mental health.
But sadly the media refuses to let him off the hook. It's much more sensational to say he's getting what he deserves for all his "womanizing" and "partying ways." But all that does is pervade a dangerous and totally unnecessary HIV phobia reminiscent of when the virus first appeared in the early '80s. And that is the last thing Sheen was trying to do by going public with his illness. He was trying to rid the world of the stigma around HIV, not ramp it up again.
We should not be spreading the notion that reckless behavior begets a "punishment" like HIV. There are so many people in the world who contracted it through no fault of their own, and even more who spread it without even realizing they had it. Even though it may be easy to connect the stereotypical dots in Sheen's past behavior to his unfortunate circumstance, that doesn't mean it's fair or right.
Think of it this way: The last time HIV was penned as a "lifestyle" disease, the media was pointing fingers at homosexuals, effectively segregating them from "healthy" society. Do we really want to go there again just to say "I told you so" about a formerly troubled actor?
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