NEW YORK — Charlie Sheen is scheduled to appear on the Today show Tuesday morning, but a shocking tabloid report claiming the actor is HIV-positive broke Monday.
The story, reported by the National Enquirer, alleges Sheen spent millions of dollars trying to cover up the fact he may have spread the disease to several sexual partners.
But AIDS activists say there is a bigger story the paper missed.
“It really illustrated how much stigma there still is for people who are HIV positive,” said Jennifer Flynn Executive Director of VOCAL, an AIDS advocacy and awareness group in Brooklyn.
After reading the National Enquirer story, Flynn said the article did more than violate Sheen’s privacy.
“I’m not sure that the National Enquirer pretends to be journalists but I think that people who are HIV positive, it is actually the law that we should protect their confidentiality and I wish that the Enquirer did that in fact and follow the law,” she said.
On top of that, Flynn says the tabloid missed a much bigger story, one she calls the best kept secret about HIV and AIDS.
“We can actually end AIDS in our lifetime,” said Flynn. “And that’s not hyperbole, that actually is a reality.”
It’s an idea Governor Cuomo has touted for some time. Back in April, the Governor introduced his blueprint to end the epidemic starting here in New York.
“New York state paid a terrible, terrible price for this disease,” said Cuomo during a World AIDS Day march. “And we’ve done a lot of work and we’ve made a lot of progress but we’re not going to be happy until we end the epidemic and we believe we can and that should be the goal.”
While the Enquirer article alleges Sheen spread the virus to several unsuspecting partners, Flynn says once people are on a treatment it is nearly impossible to spread the virus.
“That’s why it’s so incredibly important that we make medications affordable and that our government pays for the medications so that everybody can get onto them.”
Neither Sheen’s people nor the Today Show would confirm the topic for Tuesday’s interview. But HIV-positive or not, Flynn says celebrities could play a large role in helping to reduce the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.
That could go a long way toward ending the epidemic.