Prince AIDS Report: Activist Says National Enquirer Turned ‘AIDS Into Godzilla’

Peter Staley, who was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” says supermarket tabloid reporting is straight out of the 1980s

The National Enquirer’s cover declaring “AIDS Killed Prince!” is “deeply offensive” to people living with HIV/AIDS because it reinforces a stigma they’ve spent decades fighting, a prominent activist told TheWrap.

The tabloid claimed this week that Prince died after refusing to take AIDS medications. But Peter Staley, a leading AIDS activist who was featured in the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” says the Enquirer is shamelessly sensationalizing the disease for a quick buck.

“They’re turning AIDS into Godzilla,” Staley told TheWrap. “These headlines are deeply offensive to the over 1 million Americans who are living with HIV. They reinforce the stigma that just beneath the surface, coursing through our blood, is a monster.”

The Enquirer’s article, ladened with more exclamation marks than a love-crushed teenager’s diary, says Prince — a Jehovah’s Witness — shrugged off doctors who advised treatment for the “killer virus.”

The Enquirer did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

“We can expect a wide range of coverage, from the responsible to the highly sensationalized,” Staley said. “And certainly the National Enquirer is on the stigmatizing end of that curve.”

This isn’t the first time the supermarket rag has been criticized for its AIDS-related coverage

In November, actor Charlie Sheen was forced to disclose publicly that he was HIV positive after he found out the tabloid was about to reveal his status. The article, “Charlie Sheen AIDS Cover-Up,” ignited backlash from several media outlets, including The Daily Beast, which slammed the tabloid for “stalking” Sheen and taking “us back to the ignorant 1980s.”

While the virus can kill if left untreated, activists point out that an AIDS diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it once was. Most HIV positive people today go on to lead long, healthy lives. In fact studies have shown that people who adhere to treatment have a full life expectancy.

“They make it sound like Ebola,” said Staley. “But while it’s hard to save someone with Ebola, that’s not the case with HIV. The Enquirer is presenting the disease as a horrific plague, which it no longer is.”