By now the world knows that one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood has come out as being HIV positive.  This after rumors circulated the Internet for weeks about a Hollywood actor having HIV finally culminated with gossip website TMZ essentially breaking the news that it was Charlie Sheen.

This is what I have to say about it.

One, if Americans didn’t stigmatize those with HIV, Charlie Sheen wouldn’t have been subjected to paying millions of dollars in hush money.  The blackmailing only worked because Sheen felt compelled to hide is status and that’s probably due to how we as a society condemn those thought to be or confirmed to be HIV positive.

Two, something is really wrong when we can accept men who feel that they are really women and vice versa, a white woman who feels that she is really a Black woman, girls joining the Cub Scouts, gay boys in the Boy Scouts, boys being used to sell Barbie dolls  but still get creeped out by people who are HIV positive or who have AIDS.

Three, it will be interesting to see if Charlie ever works again. Making movies about HIV and AIDS isn’t the same as hiring someone to work who is out as HIV+–keyword being “out”.  Hollywood has come a long ways, but I don’t know if they’ve come that far.  Hence the need for Charlie Sheen to agree to pay off people to keep them quiet.

And finally, in my opinion people who are HIV positive have an absolute responsibility to let their sexual partners know BEFORE engaging in protected or unprotected sex.  If their partners still have sex with them that’s on the sexual partner.  The enter into the act of sex knowing fully the risks associated with it. If Charlie Sheen had unprotected and consensual sex with someone after telling them he was HIV positive it is no longer his fault if that person was exposed to HIV or actually contracts HIV.  Charlie Sheen can’t be responsible for who he had sex prior to him actually finding out he was HIV positive.  That responsibility falls on both parties as well. This day in age it’s almost safe to assume that almost everyone has a sexually transmitted disease be it herpes, HIV, or otherwise and folks having random sex need to act accordingly.  If nothing else Jerry Springer, Cheaters and Catfish has shown us that people aren’t always who they say they are.

However, I doubt none of this will stop people from coming out of the woodworks to sue Sheen.  This story is far from over.  I just hope we can shift the focus from TMZ’s click bait to the real issue.

jasmyne cannick

Jasmyne Cannick

Selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, KCET’s Southern California Seven Women of Vision, one of the Most Influential African-Americans in Los Angeles Under 40 and most recently one of Los Angeles’ Most Fascinating Angelenos by the L.A. Weekly, Jasmyne Cannick is best known as a political analyst and social commentator on the intersection of pop culture, politics and race online, radio, television and in print.  Follow her online at, @Jasmyne on Twitter and /JasmyneCannick on Facebook.