"It's a hard three letters to absorb..."
When I'd first heard that actor Charlie "Winning" Sheen contracted H.I.V. and possibly placed the lives of those women he'd been involved with at risk, all I could think was, "people are still allowing themselves to be susceptible to STD's in 2015?"
I remember being six years young and staying at my aunt's place as she babysat me for a day. At the time, she worked for the health department as a counselor and was constantly bringing home informational material on safe sex and disease prevention, etc. While she took a nap, I nosily rummaged through her things in search of something to do, eventually stumbling across a pile of pamphlets and STD-themed deck of cards.
As I played with the cards, I read each one, with a few in particular containing stats and facts on HIV and AIDS. Because at the time I could only read well but hardly understood the technicalities of anything I actually read, I took HIV to be a disease of "bad blood" that could spread from one human to the next wherever this blood and another person was present. It also didn't help that the scene in TLC's "Waterfalls" video, where the guy has unprotected sex with a carrier, used to haunt me constantly (*sings* "three letters took him to his final resting place...")
Of course as I got older, I grew to know more about HIV and the immediate death-sentence it is no longer considered to be. It's safe to say that treatment for the disease has certainly come a long way. But the fact still remains-
[Tweet "Yes, it's 2015 and HIV still kills."]
When Charlie Sheen took to our TV screens yesterday for the Today Show with host Matt Lauer to confirm his HIV status, I was slightly taken aback. It gave me flashbacks of the early 90's when HIV was pretty fresh and rampant amongst those who hardly knew anything of it. Having been discovered in 1981, HIV is still very new. And although incurable to this day, it is undoubtedly more controllable than ever before when proper preventative measures are taken, especially considering the advancement in awareness and treatment.
The 50-year-old actor went on the popular talk show to reveal he'd been living with deadly disease for the past four years:
"I'm here to admit that I am, in fact, HIV positive. And I have to put a stop to this onslaught, to this barrage and attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful stories that are about [me] threatening the health of so many others, which couldn't be further than the truth. I told enough where I trusted that I wouldn't be in this position today."
Charlie went on to detail how he found about his HIV status, saying that a standard check-up for a series of migraines that he feared was a tumor, turned into a revelation that he'd contracted HIV. What brought Charlie to go public with his disease was a desperation to end any and all extortion.
As a result of having to disclose his HIV-positive status to a number of sexual partners, people began demanding money from the out-of-work actor (who once made $1.8 million an episode on Two and a Half Men), in order to keep his secret. In case you weren't aware, it is considered unlawful in most states for knowingly spreading HIV.
The actor made it clear that although he had no problem doing his part of disclaiming his truth, it came at a cost-- a reported $10,000,000 to be exact.
"I have paid those people (for my silence). Not that many people, but enough to where it has depleted the future [of my family]. Enough to bring it into the millions. What people forget is that it's money they are taking from my children. They think it's just me [they're using], but I have five kids and a granddaughter."
He also read an excerpt from an open letter he'd written prior to the show:
"I always lead with condoms and honesty when it comes to my condition. Sadly my truth soon became their treason as a deluge of blackmail and extortion took center stage in this circus of deceit."
Charlie later went on to dispel any rumors that he'd spread his illness to anyone else, although he did admit, with consent, he had unprotected sex while HIV-positive on a number of occasions:
Matt Lauer: Have you knowingly or even perhaps unknowingly transmitted the HIV virus since your diagnosis?
Charlie: Impossible! Impossible!
Matt Lauer: Have you since the time of your diagnosis told everyone of your sexual partners, before you had a sexual encounter, that you were HIV positive?
Charlie: Yes I have. No exception
Matt Lauer: Have you had unprotected sex on any occasion since your diagnosis?
Charlie: Yes! But the two people I did that with were under the care of my doctor and they were completely warned ahead of time.
When I saw Charlie on TV earlier, it reminded me of an interview on risky sex that rapper Trina did last year with media personality, Peter Bailey, especially the part where Charlie admitted to two partners consenting to unprotected sex with him after his status, knowing the risks involved with doing so. On the show, Trina opened up about her low tolerance for infidelity and being witness to the Hollywood scene of women and men "all doing one another," something that concerned her due to the increased risk of making oneself susceptible to diseases.
"As a woman, just as a woman that takes care of herself, the mix don't work for me. Too many people doing too many things with their bodies, their mouths, everybody is in a thousand circles. There are no doctors in the building, there are no blood tests being taken, there are no dental reports, there are none of these things happening. Why are we doing it? Who is going to be responsible to say: "Hmm, I was doing this with her but she's doing it with him [now] and I'm looking at him and he definitely doesn't look like he's clean.
The circle is just so open and it gets so bizarre. I'm a germaphobe!
You mean to tell me you on the streets, in the strip club, you're touching other women. You're being intimate with other women. You're doing whatever it is, you're kissing- do you understand? Do you know if this woman has been to the dentist and had her teeth cleaned? Because you're putting your saliva, in her saliva, she could have a cavity, open mouth [sore], blood clot- I do not play those kind of things. I am totally a germaphobe and that stuff freaks me out.
Insane! It seems these days it's getting more common for folks to play Russian roulette with sex due to newer, convenient methods of birth control that help prevent pregnancy, but do absolutely nothing to stop the spread of infection. In an article for the Guardian titled, "Unsafe Sex: Why Everyone's Doing It," the writer revealed:
So…wait," I asked my friend Hayley, over some overpriced wine in my local one evening, "you don't use any contraception, at all?" "None," she said matter-of-factly. "I've had unprotected sex so many times with no results that I think I might be infertile." I doubt that she needed my judgment face at that particular moment, but she got it. She's no teenager, and I have to admit, I'd thought she would know better.
Unprotected sex. At one point or another, we've all had it (haven't we? Haven't we?). I've stopped asking my friends if they've used a condom when we do our regular one-night-stand postmortems, not because it makes me look like a neurotic teenager, but because I know that they haven't. And I have no idea how we, well educated in the dangers of unprotected sex and way past our teens, have got to this stage. I am shocked, when canvassing my friends, that in taking the contraceptive pill I am in the minority. Some friends are using other methods, but others aren't using anything. They are just styling it out. Bareback.
I've definitely been witness to women pride themselves on taking a pill as their only form of contraceptive, but are diapers are bigger deal than death? It's almost as if some women place the burden of unwanted pregnancy above sexually transmitted diseases. However, although most STD's are not fatal, and HIV is not the quick-death sentence it used to be, that doesn't mean it doesn't mean leading a life of inconvenience.
[Tweet "People place pregnancy prevention above disease protection as if pills can prevent kills."]
According to statistics borrowed from Dailymail:
- 1 out of 3 women get 'swept away in the moment' and forget about using condoms
- 7 out of 10 single women regularly practice unprotected sex (whether with their partner or a casual partner)
- 18% of single women said they are often too drunk to use contraception
- 8% said they 'just don't like using condoms'
People see survivors of HIV living prosperously not knowing that these daily fighters are often on a rigorous regiment of blood work and pricey antiretroviral medications. Not to mention, most of them were fortunate enough to have detected the disease early. But it's safe to say that in this day and age, it's a must we do better because we know better. You only have one life to live ladies!
How do you feel about casual sex in this generation?