Charlie Sheen claims there’s no trace of HIV in his blood anymore — which is unlikely, as most scientists and doctors say HIV never completely goes away. It’s far more likely that he means he’s undetectable, meaning that his viral load (the amount of HIV in his blood) is below what a lab test can detect. Thanks to new medications and treatments, HIV has gotten much more manageable to live with. Although it’s no longer the death sentence it once was, HIV-meds and treatments can be quite costly.
Sheen’s Today show appearance is one of the few times a celebrity has come out about their HIV status. Even though it’s been almost 25 years since it happened, the most famous celebrity to come out as HIV-positive in recent memory is still Magic Johnson, who announced his status in 1991. Celebrities have disclosed their HIV status since — Olympic diver Greg Louganis or Who’s The Boss star Danny Pintauro, for example — but Sheen and Johnson are of an upper echelon of fame.
There will undoubtedly be people who say that Sheen’s HIV-positivity is no surprise considering his not-so-secret addictions to drugs and sex-workers and that those addictions make him a bad public figure for raising HIV-awareness, but that’s bullshit. His caliber alone will at least remind folks that HIV can effect anyone, even if you’re famous or rich. He could also educate his devoted fan-base on HIV or even compel them to give to HIV charities, if he chooses to. He’d be an unconventional spokesperson, for sure, but still a force a good.
Of course, the news took Twitter by storm. There were the unfortunate jokes about “tiger blood” (ugh), though we did like this guide to crafting your own Charlie Sheen/HIV Joke:
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CHARLIE SHEEN HIV JOKE: – stop – don’t – really, don’t – it’s not funny – seriously don’t do it
— Matthew D’Ambrosio (@drmattdambrosio) November 16, 2015
But overall, many of the top tweets were sympathetic:
Dear Social Media: Charlie Sheen is not dying. HIV is not AIDs. Nobody “deserves” HIV. And joking about someone else’s disease is gross. — Adam Sank (@AdamSank) November 16, 2015
‘@charliesheen I know a lot of people who have lived HIV+ for years. I will help you.
— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) November 16, 2015
The way the Charlie Sheen HIV story is rolling out is going to just increase the stigma of the disease, horrible comments being tweeted
— Thomas in Texas (@thomasntexas) November 12, 2015
So far, most of the HIV/AIDS organizations have stayed silent about Sheen, but that’s not the case for individual activists:
— Francisco Luis White (@FranciscoLWhite) November 16, 2015
— Stuart (@newlypositive) November 16, 2015
— Peter Staley (@peterstaley) November 16, 2015
What do you think about the news? Will Charlie Sheen use his platform to spread HIV awareness and help end the stigma? Let us know in the comments!
(featured image via Joella Marano)