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Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

Charlie Sheen Writes Open Letter After HIV Announcement

The actor penned a letter to the public regarding his feelings when discovering his diagnosis as well as what he hopes to accomplish by opening up.

After sitting down with Matt Lauer on Tuesday morning (Nov. 17) and announcing to the world that he is HIV-positive, actor Charlie Sheen has released an open letter to the public discussing his inner turmoil since being diagnosed with the virus, which he found out he contracted four years ago.

"Roughly four years ago, I suddenly found myself in the throws of a seismic and debilitating three-day cluster-migraine-like headache," he started the letter. "I was emergently hospitalized with what I believed to be a brain tumor or perhaps some unknown pathology. I was partially correct. Following a battery of endless tests, that included a hideous spinal tap, it was sadly and shockingly revealed to me that I was, in fact, positive for HIV. The news was a "mule kick" to my soul. Those impossible words I absorbed and then tried to convince myself, that I was stuck, suspended, or even stranded inside some kind of alternate reality or nightmare, were to the absolute contrary. I was awake. It was true… reality."

Under the care of his personal doctor, Dr. Robert Huizenga, Sheen said that he underwent many intense and draining treatments to make the virus less and less detectable, but the most difficult part was telling his family and loved ones. Amidst all of the new stress in his life, he turned to substance abuse and "fathomless drinking" in order to cope. He also associated with many people who didn't have his personal struggles in mind, only his money.

"...I dazedly chose (or hired) the companionship of unsavory and insipid types. Regardless of their salt-less reputations, I always lead with condoms and honesty when it came to my condition. Sadly, my truth soon became their treason, as a deluge of blackmail and extortion took center stage in this circus of deceit. To date, I have paid out countless millions to these desperate charlatans."

 

Sheen is hoping that through publicly declaring his status, he will be able to reclaim his freedom and not have to pay people to keep his diagnosis a secret. He also hopes to spread awareness to the public to become an advocate for those suffering from the virus.

"I accept this condition not as a curse or scourge, but rather as an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity to help others. A challenge to better myself."

Read the entire letter here.

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Taraji P. Henson Says She Developed Anxiety After Trayvon Martin Shooting

Taraji P. Henson opens up about anxiety, mental health, menopause, and the myth that black women have to be strong at all times, in a new cover story for Self Magazine.

In one portion of the interview, Henson explains how Trayvon Martin’s death served as a turning point in her mental health journey. “All my life I've been bubbly and the life of the party,” said the Empire star. “Things started to shift for me when Trayvon Martin —when that happened.”

Martin, 17, was gunned down in 2012 on his way home from the store. His killer, George Zimmerman, was later acquitted of second degree murder. Adding insult to injury, Zimmerman recently filed a $100 million lawsuit against Martin’s family.

Henson’s son, Marcell Johnson, is close in age to Martin. “That's when I noticed anxiety started kicking in,” she says explaining a fear that many black people face daily.

“They're not going to [recognize] Taraji's son out here on these streets,” added Henson. “It's me that is the star. He's not.”

Henson fears are shared by her 95-year-old grandmother. “She worries about her children, her children's children, and her great-grandbabies because she knows that at any given moment you can be picked on or killed for the color of your skin.”

Later in the interview, Henson talks about depression and explains how generational trauma carried over from slavery, everyday racism and the current political climate, can be overwhelming for black people. “[It’s] 2019, going on 2020, with even more microaggressions against us every day that we got to see on the news…and we're supposed to be okay. It's a lot.”

Henson, who launched The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation last year, has been an advocate for erasing the stigma around mental health in the black community.

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Central Park Five Exoneree Raymond Santana Gets Engaged To Deelishis

Central Park Five Exoneree Raymond Santana is wrapping up whirlwind year with an engagement. Santana popped the question to former Flavor of Love star Deelishis, on Thursday (Dec. 5).

“Yea [it's] official..ya can really hate me now!! @iamsodeelishis is officially off the market… [she’s] all mines…#GODgavemethegoahead..,” Santana captioned a video of the surprise engagement during a lunch date in Atlanta.

 

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Yea its official..ya can really hate me now!! @iamsodeelishis is officially off the market... shes all mines...#GODgavemethegoahead..

A post shared by Raymond Santana (@santanaraymond) on Dec 5, 2019 at 1:01pm PST

The couple met over the summer at a birthday party for Kandi Burruss’ husband, Todd Tucker, Santana revealed in an interview with TMZ Live on Friday (Dec. 6).

“I had so many blessings this year, this was like the icing on the cake,” he said.

Santana, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned  in the Central park jogger case along with Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, and Yusef Salaam, also spoke on former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s run for president, and whether or not he would accept and apology from the billionaire for avoiding settling their multi-million dollar lawsuit against the city of New York.

The exonerees sued the city for racial discrimination, malicious prosecution and emotional distress in 2003. The suit was eventually settled for $40 million in 2014, after Mayor Bill DeBlasio took office. An additional lawsuit against the state of New York was settled for $3.9 in 2016.

Hear Santana’s thoughts on Bloomberg, and more on his engagement, in the video below.

 

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Permanent Hair Dyes And Straighteners Linked To Breast Cancer, Black Women At Higher Risk

According to a new study conducted by scientist from the National Institute of Health, the use of permanent hair dye and straighteners could be linked to breast cancer in women, and black women who use those products are more at risk of developing the disease.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer on Wednesday (Dec. 4), used data from more than 46,000 women.

"Researchers have been studying the possible link between hair dye and cancer for a long time, but results have been inconsistent," said corresponding author Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology Group. "In our study, we see a higher breast cancer risk associated with hair dye use, and the effect is stronger in African American women, particularly those who are frequent users. "

Women who regularly used permanent dyes in the year before enrolling in the study were “9% more likely to develop breast cancer” than those who did not use hair dyes, researches found.

The study also concluded, that black women participants who used permeant hair dyes every five to eight weeks, were 60% more likely to develop breast cancer, compared to an 8% risk for white women. On another note, temporary and semi-permanent hair dyes resulted in little to no increase in the risk of breast cancer.

Researches found that women who use chemical hair straighteners every five to eight weeks were around 30% more likely to develop breast cancer. While no change was found between black and white women in the risk level, the use of hair straighteners were more popular among the black women.

Despite the findings, Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch, who co-authored the study, pointed out that various factors can contribute to breast cancer.

"We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk,” said Sandler. “While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer."

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