This obviously takes it as a given that Sheens right to privacy has been exhaustively trampled, and that this is somehow acceptable: He has been smoked out of the closet.
Enquirer is pissed. Their eight-page special about Sheens alleged HIV diagnosis hits newsstands Wednesday, but Sheen seems determined to scoop them himself with his Lauer one-on-one. The , find their scoop slip through their fingers, has a feverish front page, research results of much investigation, which promises to uncover the Ex-Lovers HorrorDid He Infect Them?( including an -Alist actor, whose face is blacked out on the encompas; identity to be revealed inside ). Plus: Hes Slept With Thousands of WomenAnd Men! Enquirer
The headline is a throwback tooto conflating HIV, a virus, and AIDS, the disease that it can lead to, although much less frequently today than it did back then because of advances in HIV drug treatment, which Sheen himself has reportedly started. Some 1.2 million people died of AIDS in 2014,
a 42 percent reduction since 2004.
A spokesman for Britains Terrence Higgins Trust told
the that anyone diagnosed is given therapy that reduces the amount of HIV virus to an undetectable quantity, and this means HIV cannot be passed on. Daily Mail
But do not expect such sobering factual terms to allay a media on full shame-and-speculate stampede.
Enquirer headline shrieking: Charlie Sheen AIDS Cover-Up, the Enquirer also promises that Sheen will announce he is HIV-positive.
Being HIV-positive and having AIDS are two totally different things, and its a distinction that is over 30 years old.
Sheen will have his say with Lauer, and hopefullyas Caitlyn Jenner did with her owntake purposeful control of the narrative.
But so far, everything about this has a nasty reek of when the media stoked anxiety around HIV, and stigmatized people with HIV and AIDS.
It began with the classic think game of the days leading up to the supposed unmasking of Sheen on Monday.
the pestered us with: Hollywood guessing game over lothario with HIV: Speculation mounts over identity of notorious womanizing actor whose hard partying ways have caught up with him. Mail
This was a neat piece of HIV-phobia, because without naming Sheen, the
Mail and others like them had already shamed the celebrity in question. His womanizing and debauchery had caught up with him we were told, as if HIV was the inevitable punishment for said celebritys wild waysa natural consequence.
But of course, the
Daily Mail , the National Enquirer , and Radar Online have absolutely no idea how Charlie Sheen became infected with HIV, if he did, orafter his alleged diagnosiswhat he might have told his sexual partners.
You dont end up inevitably with HIV after having lots of sex; you are able to contract HIV through one unlucky sexual contact. Charlie Sheens problem is that his wild hours are so well-known that an HIV diagnosis inserts itself into his tale, with the careless tabloid author not stopping to topic their own prejudice about how it got there.
Mail does note that the then-nameless celebrity was terrified about how the revelation of his HIV status could affect his career, a fear that can have only increased when the ghoulish think game over the stars identity went into high gear over the last few days.
It started on Nov. 2 with a
piece, which again conflated HIV and AIDS( Hollywood Superstars Desperate Battle With AIDS Exposed ). Radar Online
The real mystery is less Sheens identity, but why at that pointafter salivating at their keyboards
Radar chose not to identify Sheen. Maybe they had his identity confirmed by multiple sources, but not Sheen himself.
Radar claimed Sheenif it is hehad been diagnosed at the least two years ago, told friends a year later, is on a drug cocktail like many with HIV, and while devastated by the news, had a good medical prognosis.
But of course, if this is Charlie Sheen, he matches the lifestyle( that word is back, everyone !) of the entertainer mentioned in the pieceone who had injected medications and had sex with prostitutes; a buddy( some buddy !) told
Radar , He resulted a dangerous lifestyle. Hes learned this the hardest possible style. So HIV is a lessonif your lifestyle falls within the judgmental purview of another nameless human being, whose lifestyle we know nothing about.
Enquirer , which claims to have conducted an 18 -month dogged investigation( wow, hope outing a celebritys very personal illness was worth the cost, guys !), reminds readers the latter are first out the gate.
They want us to know they were on to exposing Charlie Sheens alleged HIV status to the world before anyone else, exposing originally how a notorious Hollywood womanizer was hiding a deadly health crisis. Though they hastened to note, Our storyheadlined Hollywood Superstars Desperate Battle With AIDS! did not reveal Sheens name.
Instead, it generated a firestorm of supposition over his identity. Again, congrats: Hope you all had a great beer after that. A fine days journalism.
The drug-shaming and sex-shaming of this nameless celebrity has already begun, even before he has disclosed his HIV status.
And this is perhaps the most insidious the members of the pre-announcement witch hunt, and at a time of greater ignorance 30 years ago it was even worse. The stories so far about the HIV-positive celebrity scarcely stop short of saying, He deserved it, just as the headlines and moral majority bozos of the mid-1 980 s said the same about lesbian men and drug users.
It is still a big deal, a huge bargain personally and professionally, to come out as HIV-positiveit still requires courage. Just because HIV can now be treated more effectively than it could back then does not decrease the shock of discovering one is HIV-positive, or mitigates the self-blame and impression of folly, and the fear that others will blame or stigmatize.
If, like Sheen, you are be considered to have set someone else at risk of contracting HIV, you are assumed to be nothing short of a killer, long before anyone asks why you have behaved in the way that you did, or sticks around for an answer.
Enquirer and Radar even serve up details of a text, supposedly from Brooke Mueller, Sheens wife from 2008 to 2011, saying how she couldnt handle his HIV news, and how it perhaps affected her.
This may be true, and may not be, but the media is already painting Sheen as a victim and victimizer, and not doing much of the necessary shade in of the territory between the two.
The headlines are all about secrecy: how he hid the deadly virus for four years; expended millions to stillness the truth; the leaked text messages. Because, of course, the media wants to dishonor Charlie Sheenand the language and tropes of secrecy does this most effectivelybefore it understands him, or understands people with HIV, or understands the psychology of living with HIV.
We truly are back in the 1980 s, typecasting the person or persons in question here as fearful, a victim, a wild human, and a killer.
The HIV narrative will become the natural, told-you-so extension of the crazy-guy Sheen narrative that is so familiar.
So far, the media coverage of Charlie Sheens HIV diagnosis, or the diagnosis of whoever-it-is, confirms all the worst of that. Sheens pastmost notoriously, his erratic behaviour in 2011, when he was fired from
Two and a Half Men is being used as cause and HIV its consequence.
The wild hours of Charlie Sheen and what happened to him are so far being played out as a morality tale, with an HIV-positive diagnosis the definitive narrative coda. Have wild sex, do drugs, and look what happens, kids.
This will do nothing but increase prejudice against and anxiety of those with HIV, to say nothing of the many who will look at the unseemly media-pile-on around Sheen, and be exhaustively discouraged from getting an HIV test themselves. Everything they fear about HIVthe doomful proclamations of the future, the blame and dishonor of othersis there front and center.
Suddenly the poisonous idiocy written about HIV in those horrible early years of the virus, where governments and racists aligned to let many thousands die painful, stigmatized demises, seems curiously present again.
This is bad enough in and of itself, but even worse when you consider that
1 in 8 people living with HIV are unaware of their infection; and 1 in 4 new HIV infections are among the young, ages 13 -3 4.
The manner in which this celebrity HIV story is being covered will not improve those figures , not least in the example of this celebrity being unable to deal with the issues, as presumably he desired, in private or public in his own period and his own wayas many non-famous people in his situation would also desire to do.
Who he told, how he told them, and when he told them has been taken totally out of his control.
Those who should listen most carefully to Sheen are the tabloid press. As they rush to merrily magistrate, they should examine their moral compass, and seek immediate acquaintance with the facts about HIV and AIDS. Merely then they should write their transcript and headlines.