Charlie Sheen’s media ‘outing’ only perpetuates stigma

The Alliance has highlighted the stigma still attached to living with HIV in the wake of recent media coverage about actor Charlie Sheen.

We urge that the increased media profile of HIV issues resulting from the actor’s story be used to highlight the challenges faced by groups most at risk of HIV such as sex workers, people who use drugs, men who have sex with men and transgender people.

People most at risk of infection are less likely to have access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. In many countries they are excluded from national HIV plans, and discriminatory laws and policies are major barriers to access.

Enrique Restoy, Senior Advisor on Human Rights at the Alliance said: “It is worrying that in 2015 Charlie Sheen felt bullied into talking publicly about his HIV status. It speaks volumes about the stigma still attached to the disease that, even in the West, we still see ‘outing’ stories reminiscent of the way the disease was reported in the 1980s.

“It’s good news for him that he’s been able to talk publicly and safely about his HIV status. Unfortunately, this is not the case for people elsewhere who are disproportionately affected by the disease. It is important that people living with HIV get the proper support if, when, and how they decide to disclose their status.

“Until at risk groups such as sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs are able to choose to talk openly about their HIV status, without fear and with equal access to HIV services, then we will have made some progress.

“Unfortunately, right now, this is not the case and discrimination, legal persecution and other barriers remain as significant obstacles to people seeking access to HIV services.”

The Alliance recently launched a campaign ‘Paradise or Persecution’ to highlight the 75+ countries in the world where LGBT people are criminalised.

For further media information, please contact:  Paul Hebden, Media Manager, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, +44 (0)1273 718949 or + 44 (0)7590 358391 or email phebden@aidsalliance.org