Charlie Sheen not #winning after HIV announcement

By Mollie Henry

In case you haven’t heard, Charlie Sheen is HIV positive. Since he revealed his condition on the Today show earlier this month, news sources and social media sites have been filled with comments and criticisms about his condition.

Sheen, 50, is most recently known for his very public meltdown in 2012 where he spent several months openly discussing his numerous sexual exploits after he was fired from his starring role on “Two and a Half Men.”

In light of his promiscuity, Sheen has been the brunt of many jokes and comments on social media indicating that it is no surprise he contracted HIV and that he deserved what he got.

However, negative reactions such as these only contribute to a culture in which people affected by HIV and AIDS feel unable to seek the help and support they need.

Sheen, who was diagnosed with the disease four years ago, says since his diagnosis, he has never missed a dose of his medication and has informed all of his sexual partners that he is HIV positive.

What seems to be at the center of many of Sheen’s criticisms however, is the belief that Sheen should have been more forthcoming about his diagnosis to his sexual partners and those who worked closely with him.

For example, multiple news sources have speculated that there will be an HIV epidemic in the porn world because of Sheen’s notorious sexual relationships with porn stars. Similarly, several porn stars have announced potential suits against Sheen for allegedly failing to disclose his condition and endangering their health.

However, as Sheen revealed on the Today Show, he has been paying extortion money for years to keep people whom he has informed of his disease from going public with his diagnosis, which would seem to indicate that there were many people who were aware of his condition.

The negative reaction to his diagnosis creates an environment in which it is not safe to be HIV positive. No one gets HIV on purpose. And by making Sheen’s situation about what he could or should have done differently, we contribute to the negative stigma of sexual promiscuity and drug use associated with HIV instead of fostering an atmosphere that is focused on helping treat and cure the disease.

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and the cells we need to fight diseases. When enough cells have been destroyed, our bodies can’t fight off infections, which is when the virus develops into AIDS.

Jenny McCarthy suggested that Sheen should have informed her he was HIV positive because she briefly played his love interest on Two and a Half Men and they often had to kiss. HIV is transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids and is most commonly passed from one person to another through sex or the use of infected needles. HIV is not transmitted through saliva and therefore, is not contracted by kissing.

Suggestions such as McCarthy’s and implications that Sheen “deserved what he got” only further the ignorance surrounding HIV, an ignorance that can keep people from getting the medical help they need.

As a campus, we can also change the conversation surrounding HIV/AIDS by taking advantage of McKinley’s services and encouraging your friends to do the same. McKinley offers free HIV testing for all students. Even if you don’t have insurance through the school, the testing is included in your health services fee.

Secondly, if someone discloses to you that they have HIV, instead of saying things like, “How did you get it?” or “How long have you had it?”, consider asking if they have started treatment, or simply if you can be of support in anyway.

At the University, we should be striving for an atmosphere where people from all backgrounds feel supported and safe to get the help that they need. Changing the way we think about and discuss HIV is the first step in changing how we perceive the disease and the people that it affects.

By changing the conversation around diseases like HIV, we can help to create a culture on campus where everyone is #winning.

Mollie is a graduate student in Art and Design.

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