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Celebrities with HIV forced to make diagnosis public

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NEW YORK — When it comes to celebrities with HIV or Aids, there have been a few high profile examples of celebrities as well as athletes who were unable to divulge the deadly virus on their terms. 

For some, when Charlie Sheen said that he was HIV Positive on the Today show Tuesday morning, it was reflective of what was seen in the 80s and early 90s.

In July of 1985, legendary actor Rock Hudson revealed his diagnosis after rumors began surfacing regarding his dramatic change of appearance.  In April of 1992, Arthur Ashe announced that he had AIDS as a preemptive strike against a newspaper report that was to be made public disclosing his health issues.

Which brings the focus back to Sheen. Forced to make his bombshell announcement Tuesday morning as a result of intense scrutiny following a report last week describing an actor who is HIV positive in Hollywood.

The stigma that comes with an HIV / AIDS diagnosis is a concern for many, including Sharon Duke, the Executive Director of Aids Services Center of New York City.

"I think that 30 years into the epidemic it's shameful that we still have stigma associated with being HIV positive," Duke said.

In her 25 years as Executive Director, Duke understands the physical challenges that the virus present as well as the psychological, which consists primarily of going to great lengths to not have a diagnosis revealed.

"The stigma has often forced people to hide from family members, from friends and from seeking medical care," Duke said.

As for Duke's impressions of Sheen's revelation? "I thought he was very brave," she quickly then added, "We need to use this as an opportunity to tell the thousands of stories of people who are living with this virus and who are making changes in their lives."

Matthew Hiltzik, is the Founder of Hiltzik Strategies, a public relations firm with a long list of celebrity clients to go with his lvast experience in crisis management.

"For someone that had a story to tell, he seemed very comfortable speaking about the issues. Things that matter to him, sharing his side of the situation and seeming just very real, revealing something very personal to him," Hiltzik said about Sheen's reveal.

Hiltzik says he was not surprised to see  Sheen forced to reveal his HIV status to the world, but admits the length it took for his 2011 diagnosis to emerge did raise his eyebrows.

"The only thing that was really surprising was that it took this long, considering how much he has been in the public eye, how much interest there has been how much he has spoken directly to his audience through social media over the years, it was actually surprising no one and stepped up and said something before that."