Actor Charlie Sheen becomes the new face of HIV awareness
"I’m here to admit that I am in fact HIV positive," said Sheen who made that announcement during a live television interview.
The actor’s announcement is expected create more focus and attention on HIV awareness. Doctor Jay Sizemore of Chattanooga CARES is one of the leading authorities on the virus.
"It tells you that HIV can impact anyone from the homeless person to a celebrity," Sizemore said.
Sheen’s announcement now makes him the new celebrity face of HIV.
"We need that face. We want that face. There’s a lot of people out there who are undiagnosed, perhaps 15-20 percent of people who have HIV don’t know it, and those are the people who continue to spread it," Sizemore said.
"We’re definitely thankful anytime there’s any HIV awareness that’s going to be out in the community. We are always urge people that if they don’t know their status to get tested," said Rachel Inman of the Hamilton County Department of Health.
The latest data on HIV cases from last year show there were 756 new cases in Tennessee. In the Southeast region there were 65 new cases reported. The majority of those new cases were reported in Hamilton County. As of last year, nearly 1000 people in Hamilton County already had HIV, But the public no longer hears about HIV compared to other deadly viruses and diseases.
"You don’t hear about it much in the media because clients are living a long healthy life now," Inman said.
HIV patients who live longer lives are doing so thanks to better HIV medication.
"There are now five medications that are available and that one single tablet per day. If people are compliant with taking medications, it can control the virus and they can expect a near normal lifespan," Sizemore said.
Sheen’s announcement comes less than a month from World Aids Day which is December 1.
Other well known celebrities with HIV include former NBA star Ervin "Magic" Johnson. He retired from professional basketball after announcing he had HIV in 1991.