During an interview on TV3’s The Paul Henry Show, New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) Executive Director, Shaun Robinson has drawn attention to the issue of stigma that still faces many people who are living with or affected by HIV.
The interview was triggered in response to Charlie Sheen’s announcement that he has HIV during an interview on the US Today Show this morning.
“It’s a hard three letters to absorb. It’s a turning point in one’s life,” the 50-year-old actor explained to Matt Lauer on the breakfast program.
Sheen said he made the announcement to end a smear campaign and extortion efforts.
“I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that are about me, threatening the health of so many others that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.
Sheen said he’s trusted the diagnosis with people he thought he could confide in, but has paid out upwards of $10 million to keep the illness a secret.
“What people forget is that that’s money they’re taking from my children,” he said about the “shakedowns” he has experienced. “I trusted them and they were deep in my inner circle, and I thought they could be helpful. My trust turned to their treason.”
He said appearing on TODAY will help put a stop to those payouts.
“That’s my goal. That’s not my only goal. I think I release myself from this prison today,” he said.
During the local interview, Shaun Robinson explained his worry that the media’s very public outing of Sheen’s positive status will only fuel the flames of stigma and bigotry.
“What concerns me most is this is a very public example is how people get treated … fear, bigotry and blame is often thrown at people when they have HIV.”
“The biggest problem with that is it really deters people from wanting to know if they’ve got the disease or not.”
Robinson added, “People who’ve had risky sex, they’d rather not know because they don’t want to be treated like this, it really affects their well-being and mental health.”
Robinson also explains that many people keep their HIV status hidden because not only to avoid discrimination and stigma but also as it can be a huge personal shock to them.
“They get treated very badly if they have HIV and they reveal it … they get thrown out of accommodation, friends stop hanging around, people won’t share food with them, sometimes employers will kick them out.”
According to the NZAF between 100 and 150 people are diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand each year.
Despite New Zealand’s HIV statistics being among some of the best in the world, Robinson stresses that HIV is “still an issue, it’s still there and anybody, heterosexual or gay, can still get HIV and it’s still incurable.”
Last Updated on Nov 18, 2015