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Don't Hide: Why The Negative Stigma Around HIV Needs To End

With the recent news about Charlie Sheen being HIV-positive, many comments and questions have come about.

Sheen revealed on "The Today Show" that he's been keeping this secret for four years, and has been taking some extreme steps in order to keep it private.

He has even paid people millions of dollars to keep quiet. One thing that is no secret is Charlie Sheen has made some pretty bad mistakes.

He's gotten a bad reputation and a lot of publicity for them.

From too much drinking, doing a lot of drugs and causing scenes on television, we have all seen Charlie Sheen in action.

Who hasn’t made mistakes and bad choices, though?

I sure have, and I'm sure many others have, too.

Our past mistakes should not define who we are as people.

With each mistake comes a learning experience, and hopefully a step in the right direction.

I can say I am nowhere near the same person I was just three or four years ago. I look at those dumb decisions as a step in my personal growth.

They have helped me become the person I am today. We can only hope Sheen has been learning from his past, and will use his fame as a platform for advocacy and awareness.

One thing I found troubling about Sheen's interview is the fact that he felt the need to hide his disease.

The times we are given bad news are the times we need a support system the most. Although Sheen has had a rough few years, he still has loved ones who care about him.

He has people in his corner who want to see him healthy.

If I were informed I had a serious disease, my family would be hurt if I felt the need to hide it from them. They would want to be there for every step of the way, to make sure I was okay physically, emotionally and mentally.

Keeping such a heavy secret can cause an even greater amount of stress on the individual affected.

There are a lot of illnesses and diseases that come with negative stigmas. This needs to stop.

Keeping something as big as HIV a secret can potentially cause health risks for others, especially if this information is not shared with past and future partners.

I can only imagine how it must feel to be told you are HIV-positive.

I'm sure some people do feel ashamed and embarrassed. I’m sure many people instantly think they could have prevented it, and that it's their fault.

But you know what? It’s okay.

Once that news has been given, the only thing you can do is learn to deal with your illness in the best way you can.

Take the time to learn about it and fully understand it. Use your voice to help others going through the same thing.

Use your voice to help those who were also scared to talk about it.

Who are we to judge?

We are living in a time where many are quick to judge and place blame on others. There is such a lack of compassion.

But the reality is, everyone has something he or she is dealing with. Everyone deserves to feel as if he or she can ask for help.

Everyone deserves to have someone in his or her corner for support. Everyone deserves to feel loved and know it will be okay.

Once we begin to have more open, honest dialogues about topics such as HIV, we will be able see a change in the ways they are perceived.

We will hopefully be able to educate younger generations on safe-sex practices. We will be able to give off the perception that it's okay to ask for help and talk about your problems.

If we can learn anything from the recent news about Charlie Sheen, it is this: Illness and disease can affect anyone, no matter his or her past.

But it's okay to talk about it and ask for help.