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TONI THORNE: Sheen can advocate for HIV awareness


TONI THORNE: Sheen can advocate for HIV awareness

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THIS WEEK Charlie Sheen announced to the world in an exclusive Today interview with Matt Lauer that he is HIV Positive.

The interview had a reported 5.5 million viewers and the announcement instantly went viral with memes (some sympathetic, some mean), tweets and Facebook statuses being uploaded worldwide.

For those of us not acquainted with Mr Sheen, he was one of the main characters of the hit television show Two And A Half Men. He is a multimillion dollar talent and celebrity with a new show called Anger Management. In my age group, Sheen gained notoriety not as a result of his TV show nor his acting. Charlie Sheen and his slogan “Winning!” was popularised as a consequence of his erratic, flamboyant, playboy behaviour approximately five years ago. Charlie Sheen had an entire pop song named after him, his lifestyle was glamourised by the media, his unpredictable antics were glorified by many men such as his openness about having slept with over 5 000 women and his alleged callous use of drugs.

I have wondered if this behaviour was Mr Sheen’s way of lashing out and coping with the news of his contraction of HIV as he claimed that he found out that he was HIV-positive “about four years ago”. However, this was neither addressed nor confirmed in his interview earlier this week.

Sheen made it very clear that his announcement was not made in an effort for him to be a role model or spokesperson for the HIV awareness movement. Rather, the interview was an attempt to stop an “onslaught of attacks” and lawsuits. He admitted that he paid over US$10 million to persons who blackmailed him. Some of them were prostitutes who took pictures of his HIV medication in his cabinet.

Reading this, one may wonder, “What does Sheen’s announcement have to do with the HIV awareness movement?”

Many people still believe they are invincible when it comes to being cognisant about sexual health. The fact that someone who has been glorified has contracted the HIV virus may show them that sexual health is of paramount importance-regardless of money and fame.

On another note, although many are still dying as a result of HIV and AIDS, it should no longer be seen as a death sentence.

This is important as I view that many persons are still undereducated as it relates to HIV and AIDS awareness and sensitisation. For example, many of us still use the term “victim” to describe those who have contracted the virus although its use has been abolished. The term “victim” comes across as hopeless. For millions of persons, life can and does go on after contracting HIV and AIDS in an era where we step closer and closer to finding a cure.

I saw an interesting tweet on Twitter during the interview. The tweet stated, “I am so sorry that Charlie Sheen has HIV. Now the entire world will see every person with the virus as promiscuous.” Similar to the early stages of the virus where many referred to it as a “gay disease”, in this era many people view HIV and AIDS to be affiliates of promiscuity. This is unfortunate and as the tweet said, Mr Sheen’s reckless habits do nothing to garner sympathy for him nor persons living with HIV and AIDS.

Every challenge is an opportunity. What I do believe is that Mr. Sheen (although he seems not to want to be seen as a role model) can be a real advocate for HIV and AIDS awareness. This will not work if he continues with the playboy lifestyle which was once glamorised by the media. Firstly, people will have no sympathy for him. Secondly, others who engage in such careless activity might be encouraged to maintain a disregard for sexual health. If Mr Sheen was able to pay over ten million dollars in bribes, he can afford the best medication. The average person cannot afford such luxuries so it is important for us to understand, implement and practise safe sex.

My thoughts and prayers are with Mr Sheen.  

Toni Thorne is a young entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global Shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise. Email [email protected]