A lot of things happened yesterday on social media when Charlie Sheen went on the Today Show to reveal his HIV+ status. And a lot of it was negative.
For many agencies who work with HIV clients, I saw a push to remind people about the need for testing and the stigma around HIV.
Everyone and anyone can and will have an opinion on Charlie Sheen. Having been diagnosed four years ago, he said he told all partners. Some of those partners are saying that’s not true. And that’s where a lot of people have spoken out on social media deploring his alleged actions or inactions.
Here at Family First Health, Caring Together does free HIV testing daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We encourage everyone to know their status. And if a test comes back positive, our staff is here and willing to help be a care coordinator for you. The level of care that our staff puts into its patients is something to behold.
As Twitter started blowing up with criticism Tuesday, I found a Huffington Post article to be enlightening. What I wanted to share with our followers was not criticism or thoughts on Sheen – but thoughts on the stigma of HIV and the lives of the people who have it.
In the HuffPo article, “Charlie Sheen’s ‘Outing’ Shows How Poorly We Treat People with HIV,” gives five reminders that people with HIV are NO DIFFERENT than anyone else. Take a look.
1. Famous people with HIV are entitled to medical privacy.
2. People with HIV were not “asking for it” and don’t “deserve it.”
3. People with HIV shouldn’t be treated like criminals.
4. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if Sheen had any other disease.
5. Stigma against HIV is one of the driving forces of the epidemic.
Food for thought, right? Strip Charlie Sheen from the entire conversation and think about this.
Another really powerful piece I saw came from Vox — “It’s not just Charlie Sheen. People living with HIV still face enormous stigma and hate.”
Please take a moment and read the article. It tells stories of people living with HIV and it takes a look at the misconceptions that STILL surround HIV.
From a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, for example:
- More than 1 in 3 Americans hold at least one wrong belief about HIV transmissions.
- About 27% don’t know that it CAN’T be spread by sharing a drinking glass
- 17% don’t know it CAN’T be spread by touching a toilet seat
- 11% don’t know that it CAN’T be spread by swimming in a pool with someone who is HIV positive.
These issues affect public health. It not only makes life harder for those with HIV, but it adds to discrimination and poor access to medical care.
So let’s open up and have real talk about HIV WITHOUT stigma. No one deserves HIV. Everyone should know their status.
Want to know yours? Come visit Caring Together. Our doors are open.