Charlie Sheen offers a stark reminder of the lingering stigma around HIV

November 17, 2015 3:32 PM

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It’s hard to believe that anything the actor Charlie Sheen does could surprise anyone anymore. But this morning, he went on “Today” for an interview with Matt Lauer and revealed that he was HIV positive. And beyond the simple facts of his health, the former “Two and a Half Men” star’s interview made something depressingly clear. In 2015, more than thirty years after the AIDS epidemic began, treatment may have advanced considerably and HIV is no longer a death sentence. But it’s still a diagnosis that someone can be blackmailed over, and that we still don’t know how to talk about without shame or inquisition.

The complexities of discussing HIV status were evident from the early moments of the interview. “I’m here to admit that I am, in fact, HIV positive,” Sheen said, in a telling choice of words. Lauer read from a letter where Sheen said that his shame over his diagnosis, which came four years ago after...

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