After four years of secretly battling the devastating virus known as HIV, Charlie Sheen has publicly admitted that he is infected with the often fatal disease. The recent public shock brings back daunting memories of a virus that until recent years was subject of controversy. Flash forward to today, in 2015, as possible cures are not out of reach.
HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus is unlike most other viruses the body can fight off. Instead, the virus lives on our body for the remainder of life targeting T cells which are critical in help fighting illnesses as simple as the flu or cold. Overtime, as the immune system is damaged by the virus, HIV becomes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). However, with medication, HIV can be prevented from becoming AIDS. One can become infected with HIV through direct contact with bodily fluids – possibly through sexual contact with an infected person, the sharing of syringes or other exchanges of bodily fluid.
Charlie Sheen isn’t the only public figure who is known to have been diagnosed with the disease. Arthur Ashe, world-renowned tennis player of the 90’s was also diagnosed with the disease after receiving a blood transfusion from a contaminated needle, unfortunately passing shortly after his diagnosis. However, not all diagnoses of HIV result in death or AIDS; Magic Johnson has been living with HIV for 20+ years.
From the past 30 years we have learned a lot about the virus, and stigmas of the disease are no longer valid. According to Global Citizen, the stigma of HIV being a “gay disease” for example, is inaccurate. During the 70’s and 80’s, HIV largely affected men who were gay, however, medical advances found no direct link between homosexuality and the likeliness of acquiring this disease. Additionally, over the years, diagnoses like that of Arthur Ashe and Magic Johnson, a former basketball player, made the global community realize it is more than just a “gay disease”.
Furthermore, the disease is no longer the “death sentence” it was years ago. Medical advancements have found preventative measures one can take to lower the risk of transmission and treatment that stabilizes and someone who has HIV. Efforts to raise awareness for the disease have been impressive in recent years. Both President George Bush and Barack Obama expressed their support for HIV/AIDS awareness and both have taken measures towards taking the first steps in treatment and cure research.
In recent years, conversations about an HIV cure are is becoming reality. Just in 2013, a toddler born with the disease was treated with an antiviral drug that successfully eradicated the disease from the baby who was given the drug just thirty hours after birth according to a report by CNN.
According to a CBS report, the major challenge of eradicating the disease is finding a cure that, long after treatment, reduces the amount of HIV to an untraceable level. While this treatment still needs work, a relatively new method of curing called “shock” given to the infected individual that “shocks” the virus. In a sense, it removes the virus from the body through shock therapy.
As a global community, we have come a long way towards understanding the disease and finally having a hopeful future for those with the virus.
Written by: Amina Rana