Don’t Feel Bad For Charlie Sheen, but Stop the Tiger Blood Jokes

It’s time to evolve the way we think about HIV.

By Michael Arceneaux

While watching Charlie Sheen this morning on TODAY, all I could do is think about Magic Johnson.

When Johnson revealed that he was HIV positive, and thus, would immediately be retiring from the NBA at the advice of his doctors, Johnson said during the press conference, “Life is going to go on for me, and I’m going to be a happy man. When your back is against the wall, you have to come out swinging. I’m going to go on, going to be there, going to have fun.”

Johnson would make a brief return to basketball, and in 2011, revealed that he regretted that decision to leave basketball. Still, Johnson stayed true to the commitment he made in that 1991 presser. Life indeed went on for him as Johnson blossomed into a hugely successful entrepreneur, advocate and philanthropist. (Full disclosure: I am a recipient of his foundation’s Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program.)

And yet, more than two decades after Johnson and many other faces and names helped changed the way we look at HIV, the stigmas continue. I’m not comfortable with the reality that some sentiments I heard at the age of 6 remain in my 31st year of life. I’m equally bothered by the circumstances that led to Sheen’s disclosure.

Sheen did not come out willingly; he was pushed into it by way of being gossiped about in tabloids and being blackmailed by the people he allowed into his life.

Look no further than the National Enquirer whose cover story leads with “World Exclusive! Charlie Sheen Is HIV Positive — Inside His Shocking Diagnosis.” The story begins with “Decades of debauchery have finally caught up to Charlie Sheen.” Then there is TMZ, who reported details about Sheen leading into his announcement this morning.

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