I recently wrote an article for THEGAYUK about reports in the Sun newspaper regarding a Hollywood actor that was alleged to have HIV.

I was quite firm in my opinion of the Sun and their showbiz journalist Dan Wootton, as I believed that the sensationalism was taking us back to the 1980s.

The reports by the Sun and other outlets left little to the imagination when trying to work out who it could be. Pretty soon Charlie Sheen’s name began appearing all over my Twitter feed as people gossiped about the speculation that he could have HIV. It’s something that genuinely angered me and I am still incredibly uncomfortable with how this whole story has played out.
On Tuesday 17th October 2015, Charlie Sheen appeared on American television to confirm that he has HIV. It’s a move that I view as being incredibly brave. I can only applaud Sheen for his honesty and the way he is handling the furore. It is my hope that he can now find peace and indeed be free from the prison he’s been living in, as he says.
Of course it is massively concerning that he has had to announce something so personal in such a public way. Every person on this planet should have a right to confidentiality, particularly when it concerns their medical records. That extends to famous people and celebrities too. Just because somebody is in the public eye, it does not mean that every part of them and their lives belong to the public
I cannot admit to being much of a Charlie Sheen fan previously, but I now have a new found admiration for him. The way in which he has been treated, and continues to be treated, is simply atrocious. Nobody deserves to have their medical conditions made public and the way in which some of the press have been reporting on this is nothing short of appalling.
Along with the Sun’s sensationalised headline of “Hollywood HIV Panic”, the Mirror also published an article by Fleet Street Fox, which had “The Hollywood actor with HIV deserves everything he gets – and worse” as a headline. It is the kind of judgemental gutter press reporting that belongs in the dark ages of the 1980s, not in 2015 when we’re apparently more educated and open minded.

There are two things to come out of all of this. On one hand it is encouraging that there is now somebody so well-known who has HIV. It has got conversations going around what HIV is and what undetectable means. That can only be a good thing which leads to increased education and awareness of HIV.
However on the other hand there is the sheer scale and sensationalism of the story. I genuinely thought we had progressed beyond the kind of reports that were seen twenty or thirty years ago. The fact that Charlie Sheen having HIV is such a huge worldwide news story shows that we have a very long way to go in terms of destigmatising HIV. It shouldn’t be a headline news story. It shouldn’t be the topic of tabloid gossip. It shouldn’t be the case that a human being has had to go on television to disclose medical information to the world.
Whilst there are encouraging aspects to take from Charlie Sheen’s story, it also shows just how much more progress, education and awareness there needs to be.

Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you’d like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.

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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.