In the rush to support Charlie Sheen for revealing his HIV status and address the stigma surrounding HIV, it has been largely overlooked that Charlie has heaped stigma on another group of people: sex workers.
In his Today interview, Charlie spoke of hiring “the companionship of unsavoury and insipid types” and revealed that a sex worker had attempted to blackmail him with photographs of his HIV medication. Of course there are unsavoury people in this world and the person who tried to extort Charlie is a scumbag. But that has nothing to do with them being sex workers, let alone is it representative of sex workers. By referring to “hiring” unsavoury characters (as opposed to “spending time with”) and the extortioner’s profession Charlie is capitalising on the pre-existing stigma towards sex workers.