What Charlie Sheen should have said

Story highlights

  • Mel Robbins: Charlie Sheen's announcement he's HIV positive smacks of self-interest, not altruism to urge help for world's HIV sufferers
  • She says revelation to head off blackmail over disease was likely brought on by a tawdry lifestyle. He again missed chance to do good

Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Actor Charlie Sheen just announced in an interview on "The Today Show" that he "is in fact HIV positive."

If you have followed Sheen's career, this announcement may not shock you. What's most surprising is that he's known for four years and hasn't told the world sooner.
Mel Robbins
The reason Charlie Sheen is talking is money. He admitted the truth to stop what he referred to as "shakedowns." He has paid people "into the millions" to stay quiet about the diagnosis -- millions he claims that were "taken away from my kids."
    Give me a break.
    Only someone like Charlie Sheen could see himself as a victim in this situation. He says he doesn't know how he contracted the disease. By his own admission, it sounds like he had plenty of opportunities, thanks to a life of extensive drug use, a love of prostitutes and one bad decision after another.
    "The Today Show" interview was playing at Dunkin' Donuts this morning, where the guy in line in front of me turned and said, "I'm surprised that's the only disease that guy has." It's what we're all thinking.
    During the interview, host Matt Lauer read a few reactions from Twitter. Most of them applauded Sheen for being "brave" for coming forward. Some noted how "sad" the news was.
    Sad? What's sad is the epidemic that's still raging in Sub-Saharan Africa where 24.7 million people are infected, many with no access to the kind of four-pill "cocktail" Sheen says he takes daily to keep his disease from leading to death. Globally, there are more than 2 million new infections a year; by the end of 2015, there could be 39 million people infected.
    If Sheen had used his own unfortunate news to call attention to these facts, it would have turned his tawdry excesses -- a wealthy, privileged man's heedless courting of disaster -- into a moment of grace. Instead, he decided to forgo the opportunity to talk about how lucky he is and how bad it is for so many others who are suffering with HIV, many through no fault of their own.
    Sheen will likely live a long life because he has the resources to access the best medical treatment in the world. Meanwhile, three in five people across the world lack access to anti-retroviral drugs and less than half of the people in the United States have their infection under control.
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    It'd be hard to argue that the announcement will damage Sheen's career. He's already done that damage with his own behavior. Remember the drug-fueled public meltdown he had when he told the world he was "winning," forcing CBS to shut down production of his sitcom "Two and Half Men," for one example?
    But despite the stigma still associated with HIV, Sheen said Tuesday that the news has not hurt his future prospects, noting that there are at least two movies in the works right now. If only average Americans living with this horrible disease had such bright futures.
    He claims that he now has a "responsibility" and hopes his decision to come forward will help other people. Ah, yes, Charlie Sheen: the inspirational figure who was ashamed of his diagnosis, hid it for four years, has been paying people "into the millions" to stay quiet and continued to have unprotected sex with at least two people.
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    Magic Johnson, on the other hand, shared his diagnosis with the world in 1991 and has raised over $20 million for HIV causes through the Magic Johnson Foundation. There is no evidence at this point that Charlie Sheen is embracing the cause in this way -- more like embracing the limelight.
    He made it clear he is "not going to be a poster man for" the disease. Even so, his narcissism was on full display, and he said he hopes people will say, "Thanks, Charlie, for kicking the doors open."
    Wow, just wow.
    He did one more thing on television today that was unsettling: He told the world that it is "impossible" that he transmitted the disease to someone else (even his doctor couldn't agree that that was entirely true), and he was cagey on details about the two partners he says he'd had unprotected sex with and who are now under the treatment of his doctor.
    After the interview, his ex-wife, Brooke Mueller, released an announcement assuring everyone that she and their two 6-year old twins are HIV negative. It's too bad that this announcement didn't include a line about how new medical advances for "HIV mixed-status couples" allow them to have an HIV free-child of their own.
    It is true that the truth will set you free. Sheen said as much when he claimed that he would not only stop making payments to keep people quiet but also "release myself from this prison today." It's hard to face your demons and to admit the truth. And we will await the fallout from Sheen's announcement to see if he has done that.
    This could be a very powerful turning point in Charlie Sheen's personal life.
    Will this be a turning point in the fight against HIV? Unfortunately, I don't believe it is.