Former 'Who's the Boss' Star on Charlie Sheen: HIV Is the New Closet

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Danny Pintauro, who recently revealed he has been HIV positive for 12 years, gives his take on the media storm surrounding the 'Two and a Half Men' alum and what the actor's announcement will do for the HIV community.

Former Who's the Boss star Danny Pintauro, who recently went public with his own battle with HIV, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the rumors surrounding Charlie Sheen, including blind items in several media outlets about an actor with an HIV-positive diagnosis that some suspected to be Sheen. On Tuesday, Sheen revealed on NBC's Today that he is HIV positive and was diagnosed roughly four years ago. At the top of his interview, Sheen indicated that hurtful media reports contributed to his decision to speak out. "I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that threaten the health of so many others that couldn't be farther from the truth," he said.

I have said numerous times in the last two months that HIV is the new closet. What I have not said is that I do not believe the media can handle this closet the same way they handled the gay closet. In other words, I think it is completely unethical for anyone to release this actor’s name without his consent, and I think they have already crossed the line by simply listing his ex-girlfriends. 

We are talking about a medical condition. Yes, it’s a sexually transmitted disease, but it’s still a medical condition. Any media outlet that has ever released that a major celebrity has cancer or any other life-threatening illness before that celebrity did has received major backlash for it. Why should this be any different? Outing someone’s HIV status without their consent is not good journalism. 

Never mind that it is illegal in this country for anyone to release a person’s medical condition without their consent. I believe that simply hinting at the idea is still "releasing" that information. It is no one’s business if [someone] has HIV but his — until he’s ready to talk about it publicly. 

I do think that [Sheen's] coming out will be very beneficial for the HIV movement and will help curb stigma. I also think it will help reach groups of people who are less inclined to relate to my story. But it has to be on his terms — no good will come of this if it’s handled otherwise. 

However, people who are positive but maybe not "out" about it are listening and watching this story unfold, so if he does not find a way to come out about it, some of those people will either stay in the closet or take a step back. Look, I am not the only celebrity, straight or gay, who has HIV…I will do whatever I can to help make the "coming out" moment as easy and comfortable as possible for them. I will do whatever I can to help make the coming out moment as easy and comfortable as possible for the slew of people who have told me about their statuses via email. They just need to have the courage.

So I send strength and light to this celebrity and strength and light to anyone considering taking that huge step forward. I’ll be there for you!