This morning, Charlie Sheen revealed to the world that he was HIV positive. I was not shocked by his revelation. After all, he did have several "roommates" who he referred to as goddesses, and I'm sure they weren't living like Chrissy, Janet, and Jack from the 70s show Three's Company. He's also been known as Hollywood's "bad boy" for years, and I know more than anyone that living that life comes with a hefty price. It was my father who taught me this.
My dad was always a bad boy and living the fast life. Back in 1998, he angrily showed me a doctor's note in his hospital bed that said he had HIV. The doctor was too heartbroken to verbally tell him, and my dad was pissed that the doctor wrote the note to begin with. What a conundrum.
I'd love to tell you that my father took his meds, and lived the best life he could before he died in 2012. But I can't. My father kept his HIV status a secret from his partners for years. I'll never really understand why, as he wasn't the kind of guy who liked to share his feelings. What I do know is that some people used his HIV status as leverage against him. When he made people angry, they would threaten to tell his partners about his status. Instead of being honest about it, he moved away to Minnesota.
I wish that I could tell you that he started over in Minnesota and decided to live a more clean life. But I can't. He kept that secret to himself so long that he killed one of his partners by not telling her that he had HIV. To this day, I'm not sure why his partner, who we later discovered was pregnant, never went to a doctor when she fell ill. She died around 2003.
My mother later told me that my father was nearly killed himself when the family of the woman he infected ran him out of town for irresponsibly giving the woman and her unborn baby a disease she could not get rid of. My dad had to hide in the luggage compartment of a Greyhound bus to keep from being murdered by her family. But that's not how he paid for what he did.
The month before he died I visited him in Cleveland, and the demons of my father's past came back to roost. I saw it written all over his face, and it is the worst image I've ever seen in my life. It was 10 times worse than watching any horror movie.
My dad was once athletic, handsome, and feisty. But this day he stood 5 feet 1 inch tall, and weighing less than 70 pounds. He was reduced to skin, bones, and haunting thoughts. He couldn't control his bowel movements, and he began crying when he soiled himself. He could only eat liquid foods, and his voice was completely gone after he got cancer in his throat. Dad couldn't tell me that he loved me one last time, he didn't have the strength to hold his grandson, and he couldn't even apologize for his sins.
For a while I hated God for allowing me to see how cruel he could be to allow someone that I loved so much to suffer. But the truth of the matter is that my dad allowed himself to suffer. For years he knew that living a fast life and hoarding your honesty is a price that he'd eventually have to pay for. Unfortunately, I got to see what that does to a person's physical and spiritual well being; it's not the life you want for yourself.
Watching my father pay for his dishonesty is the worst of what could happen when you don't reveal your HIV status. I commend Charlie Sheen for being so revealing, and standing up to his extortionists. But the elephant in the room is whether or not he would have been forthcoming about his status if he was not under the threat of exposure. According to TMZ, Charlie Sheen had a lot of partners.
At least six women have lawyered up in the last 24 hours and plan to sue Charlie Sheen for intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, sexual battery ... and more are on the way.
A prominent Los Angeles lawyer tells TMZ, the 6 women contacted him Monday, and he has appointments with 4 more today.
The women claim they had both protected and unprotected sex with Sheen, as recently as last month, and he did not disclose his HIV status.
A source directly connected with Sheen says in the last 2 years, Sheen has had at least 200 partners, so the number of women who either will sue or plan to sue will almost certainly grow exponentially.
Charlie Sheen has yet to confirm or deny this latest accusation. What I do know is after watching my father, being dishonest about your HIV status is a heftier death sentence than the disease itself.
[Tweet "We live in a day and age where casual sex is deadly."]
But it doesn't have to be that way. From my point of view, honesty is the best policy, no matter how much it sucks. The alternative is much better than the nightmares I face when I remember seeing my dad during his finals days.
Charlie Sheen may have wanted to keep his HIV status private, but right now, people who had a parent like mine could really use a role model, even if it his from Hollywood's notorious bad boy. I need to see one more parent, besides Magic Johnson, set the example of how living a life of honesty can have a happy ending.