Charlie Sheen HIV announcement shines light on disclosure in Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Charlie Sheen is HIV-positive.

News spread like wildfire on social media and on the airwaves as the actor talked on a national morning show.

The 50-year-old said he is not sure how he got the virus but claimed he informed every sexual partner of his condition.

"Wow" was the reaction from so many people Tuesday after learning of Sheen's HIV status.

"Look in the mirror. It can look like anyone," Jay Johnson told WREG.

The interview shined a light on HIV disclosure in Shelby County on the same day of the Mid-South HIV Conference.

"There are 32 states in the U.S. that have HIV criminalization statutes," Dana Asbury, with Healthy and Free Tennessee, said.

You could go to jail in Tennessee if you know you're living with HIV and never tell your partner about it.

Jennifer Pepper, with Shelby County's Ryan White Program, said some people do not tell because it is not always safe to disclose.

"So, when that's the case we work with people to help them figure out other ways to protect themselves and their sex partners," Pepper explained.

Advocacy groups said the law is outdated -- claiming it adds to the stigma of those living with HIV and discourages people from getting tested.

"There's no excuse for laws that don't take account of the fact that one can be HIV positive and not necessarily be in a position to transmit," Asbury said.

Pepper said statistics show there are 8,000 people living with HIV in Shelby County.

Most of those affected in the Mid-South by HIV are African-Americans.

Some people hope Sheen's brave interview will get people talking about the issue affecting our community.

"Especially when individuals like Charlie Sheen step to the forefront and say 'hey, I'm HIV-positive, and I'm living and I'm okay'. It's okay," Johnson said. "It helps to normalize the conversation."


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