One of the biggest shockers about Actor Charlie Sheen‘s announcement that he is HIV + on the Today Show was that he was being blackmailed about his health status. He was actually diagnosed as HIV-positive about four years ago and the few people who knew it demanded money from him to keep the secret.
“Locked in a vacuum of fear, I chose to allow their threats and skullduggery to vastly deplete future assets from my children, while my ‘secret’ sat entombed in their hives of folly (or so I thought),” Sheen wrote in an open letter to media
Studies have long shown the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS has been a major impediment to the long-term success of any treatment and prevention effort. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States today. Of those “only about 37% are actually seeing a clinician regularly,” says Dr. Stephen Boswell, president and CEO of Boston’s Fenway Health, a health care organization that works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“Denial is a tremendously powerful thing,” says Boswell by way of explanation for the numbers. “And sometimes it’s easier, especially when you have no or minimal symptoms, it’s easier to deny things. People can work through that, but it can take some time. So it’s a normal response. But the problem is, if it lasts too long it’s against the interest of a patient.”
“The most important thing anyone can do is know your status,” advises Coull. “Get tested and if you have it, take it one day at a time. We have access to great support systems, super doctors and amazing medications in our country.”
“I’m here to admit that I am in fact HIV-positive,” Charlie Sheen told NBC’s Matt Lauer. “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 the [alleged] threatening the health of so many others, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
Sheen, 50, said he is not sure how he contracted the virus. Since his diagnosis, he said, he has informed every sexual partner of his condition. He called it “impossible” that he had transferred the virus to others.
He said he revealed the diagnosis to people he thought he trusted, but some of them demanded money to keep the information to themselves. He paid those people “in the millions,” he said. Later in the show, Lauer said that Sheen told him it was more than $10 million.
“We’re talking about shakedowns,” Sheen said. “I’ve paid those people.”
One of those people, he said, was a prostitute who entered his bathroom, took a cellphone picture of his medication and threatened to sell the image.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that he spent money to hide it,” says Jonathan Scott, president and CEO of Boston’s Victory Programs, a nonprofit that works daily with those diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. “HIV began with horrific stigma, and even 30 years into the disease there is still stigma that is different from other diseases, such as breast cancer.”
Fellow actor Danny Pintauro, former star of “Who’s the Boss,” calls an HIV diagnosis the “new closet” from which people must decide if they want to go public. Pintauro recently announced he’s been HIV positive for 12 years.
There are two main ways HIV is spread in the United States — by sex and by sharing needles, syringes or any of the equipment used to prepare and inject drugs. Anal sex carries the highest risk, followed by vaginal sex and having multiple partners.
Sia inspires us to talk about mental health issues related to diabetes on Diabetes Late Nite LISTEN
GLAM MORE, FEAR LESS and get our free Divabetic E-Newsletter filled with inspirational tips, information and deals to help you stay happy and healthy