Search form

Scroll To Top
News & Opinion

Op-Ed: Jenny McCarthy, Stop Stigmatizing People With HIV

Charlie Sheen
AP Photo

Kit Williamson says: 'We all have a responsibility to correct statements like McCarthy’s when we see them, no matter who they’re directed at.'

I expected to see some ignorant responses after Charlie Sheen revealed his HIV status this week, but I have to admit I was stunned by Jenny McCarthy's statement that he should have disclosed his status to her before shooting scenes together on Two and a Half Men. On her SiriusXM radio show, McCarthy said "in playing a love interest, you would think there would be some type of, I don't want to say criminal issue, but I don't even know how to feel about that," adding "Ick! That's not fair. It's scary." To be clear, unless she had full on Shortbus-Brown-Bunny-Von-Trier-Gaspar-Noe sex in the indie, art-house sex drama that is Two and a Half Men, her risk of contracting HIV from Sheen was about as high as her risk of contracting HIV from a swimming pool or a toilet seat, which is to say 0%. By speculating that he had an ethical and possibly legal obligation to disclose his HIV status to her, McCarthy is spreading misinformation and fear, and the media should call her on it.

Stigmatization is a disease, it's contagious, and McCarthy has a responsibility to do more research before opening her mouth. These kinds of statements can have very real consequences for HIV positive people's personal and professional lives.

Since Sheen's announcement, I've seen a serious uptick in this kind of bullshit, as though HIV positive people should be quarantined away from society or forced to declare their status immediately upon entering a room. But I've also seen a lot of friends and strangers speak openly about their HIV status on social media in the last few days, some of whom I did not know were positive, and I commend them for their bravery. Danny Pintauro recently called HIV the "new closet" and it's easy to see why--the way many have lashed out at Sheen online.

According to the CDC, there are 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States. Dr. Stephen Boswell of Fenway Health recently told CNN that "only 37% are actually seeing a clinician regularly," and attributed that low number to stigma and denial.

I'm not here to defend Charlie Sheen. I don't know what he told his sexual partners, when he was diagnosed, whether he was actually blackmailed for millions of dollars or whether he will owe millions more to the women suing him. McCarthy may have been correct when she said "he's going to have to take some major accountability with many people in his life." But McCarthy is dead wrong to think she is one of them.

We all have a responsibility to correct statements like McCarthy's when we see them, no matter who they're directed at. To end the spread of HIV we must first put an end to the stigmatization of people living with HIV--and that starts by educating others on how HIV is spread, treated, and prevented.

Kit Williamson is an actor, filmmaker, and activist living in New York City. He best known for playing the role of Ed Gifford on Mad Men and creating the LGBT series EastSiders, which recently premiered its second season exclusively on Vimeo On Demand. Follow him on Twitter @KitWilliamson.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Kit Williamson