A couple of weeks ago I was intrigued by a frontline sensationalized article in a european newspaper. This online news source was breaking the news that a famous celebrity had HIV, but, was refusing to come forward for fear of the consequences to his career, costly lawsuits, and hatred and vitriolic dialog that would surely come from his announcement. The article was very descriptive and in telling that many famous actresses in hollywood, international models, TV stars, male and female porn stars had sexual encounters with this person. Adding to this, the pressure to come forward now and confess his acts.
Admittedly, I did wonder who it might be, yet, I thought this person was probably really agonizing over this decision and hoped he or she was seeking professional help. However, this article furthered my thoughts on what I could do to be a resource for people like you and me who have contracted HIV.
We all know now that Charlie Sheen is that famous celebrity who has contracted HIV. I watched his interview with Matt Lauer on the TODAY show and found it to be very insightful. I believe it was a smart move bringing in his personal physician who’s been treating him to explain the difference between HIV and AIDS. Let me pause here, if you did not watch the interview or read the transcript let me point this out, HIV is a virus that leads to AIDS. Charlie Sheen is HIV positive, however, he does not have AIDS! That is a very important part of his story that is being misunderstood.
What I look at are the underlying mental health issues that lead one to make harmful personal choices, put their health and others in danger, cope by way of addictive behaviors. Charlie was depressed. He self medicated with harmful drugs, toxic levels of alcohol, numerous hypersexual liaisons with prostitutes, celebrities, models, and porn stars of both genders. His angry tirades, non-sensical monologues (remember “tiger blood”), and erratic behavior went viral. He was a media sensation, a tabloid punching bag for months, and one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, as well.
I’m certainly not excusing his lifestyle choices, however, what I take issue with is that he was forced (blackmailed) to reveal his illness to the world. In the age of the internet, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat we are in everyone’s business. Personal lives aren’t! Social media is just that, social. Let’s step back a moment and think about this, would you want people to know you have a mood disorder, HIV, prone to long episodes of depression, suffer with paralyzing anxiety that build to spontaneous panic attacks? How about your employer finding out that you have OCD so severe that the compulsions cause you to take an inordinate amount of sick days? What about them finding out that your ADD is so bad that you have a habitual pattern of not being able to complete tasks, meet deadlines, or stay organized? You get my points, right?
This is bigger than Charlie Sheen, HIV and AIDs are very serious and continue to deserve our attention, but, not in this type of public forum. This a very personal struggle. Certainly, we can show compassion for the pain he’s in and he needs to be freed from the haters, opportunists, and blackmailers so he can concentrate on his health. At some point he’ll be able to put HIV in the RIGHT spot light. My hope is that we can be respectful of one another’s privacy, as we would like the same for ourselves.