Take Responsibility Charlie

Yesterday, Charlie Sheen announced to Matt Lauer on the Today show that he was in fact a person living with HIV. Rumors had been circulating in the tabloids that an A-list celebrity was suspected of having HIV. Sheen had known of his status for around four years, he admitted. He felt it necessary to come forward about his status because those he claimed knew of his status began blackmailing him to keep his status secret. I have never had anyone blackmail me about my own status.

Before Sheen made his announcement, Who's the Boss child star Danny Pintauro announced that he was living with HIV, and he mostly blamed the drugs he was taking as the cause of his reckless behavior concerning sex. As awful as that interview was, I still embraced Pintauro as a fellow person living with HIV. He should have educated himself before speaking nationally about his status because he was ill prepared for the questions that were asked of him. Nonetheless, I would never cast my vote for Pintauro to be the face and the go-to person concerning HIV.

In the same manner, I would not cast my vote for Sheen. I commend him for actually coming forward and disclosing his status in the interview. He made some good points, but there was more he could have done such as accept responsibility for his own actions and not just pass the buck. In all of the comments I read about the interview yesterday as my Facebook timeline was bombarded with posts concerning the interview, I didn't get a chance to actually see it until today. I know that his doctor sat alongside him and spoke about Sheen's character and treatment to some extent. From what I remember of the section I saw, he decided to disclose his status because he was being blackmailed to the tune of millions of dollars. I don't know how true that is, but when Lauer read aloud a letter written by Sheen stating, "I hired the companionship of unsavory or insipid types" to which Lauer confirmed, "I imagine prostitutes" I became livid. Sex workers were perceived to be malicious, vile and disgustingly selfish people who targeted him for being positive and exhorted money from him. Sheen went on to say that he trusted these people and they were a part of his inner circle. So my question is at what point did he feel they were "unsavory or insipid types" while he was in their company? By his own admission, he continued to be around people whom he learned later were untrustworthy. I see that as a cop out for not taking responsibility for his own actions. He wasn't forced to participate in anything.

It was disheartening to see so many HIV-advocates whom I respect, admire and value who did not speak out against his treatment of sex workers. It was repulsive the way he degraded women whom he spent so much time with only to make himself look more like a victim than a champion for our cause. I understand where all of the support came from within the HIV community for Sheen. HIV is a serious issue that seems to be only important to those impacted by the disease, so it is welcomed to have such a well-known person as a logical voice promoting HIV-awareness. I don't feel this is our voice because I don't want anyone left behind. Regardless of our professions, we are people first. We are people living with HIV. We are people who come from different walks of life who all share a diagnosis, so we need to continue our search or just realize that we have the power to do what needs to be done ourselves. It is my fervent belief that we treat each other equally because there is enough work for everyone to contribute. It is not acceptable to forget that we are all in this fight together. A wrong committed to one of us is detrimental to all of us.

I'm speaking out about it because as a transgender woman, it is already suspected and inaccurate that those of us living with HIV acquired it by performing sex work. I know the stigma that is attached to being transgender, and I also recognize the stigmatizing language that some of us use to speak of ourselves and others like us. It is absolutely vital that we call out oppression when we first see it because we are the sum of our parts. It should make us whole and united, but I didn't get that feeling today after having viewed the interview from the comments of comradery that I witnessed yesterday.



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