November 17, 2015

A whole different issue - Charlie Sheen and his diagnosis

I don't follow celebrity news. I couldn't care less about celebrities for the sake of them being celebrities - and that's even more true after I moved to Germany. But now and then something comes through that I actually care about.

Today it was Charlie Sheen. 

Photo of boats, nothing to do with the article, just needed an uplifting picture
I don't care about Charlie Sheen as a celebrity, and I don't know him as a person - but a friend of mine posted a link today talking about Sheen going public with having HIV.
Charlie Sheen having HIV. 

This shouldn't even be news. Sheen has HIV, a virus that with the right medicines doesn't really have to impact a persons life at all. Charlie Sheen has access to those medicines. Sheen having HIV, or anyone else having HIV for that matter; it really shouldn't be something that makes the headlines - HIV doesn't, or at least shouldn't define a person. 

I personally think it's great that Charlie Sheen now talks about it openly. I think it's terrible that he does so because he felt forced to - according to media and the interview he did, he has been blackmailed. Imagine if the money Sheen has paid blackmailers had gone to supporting HIV positive people in poor countries, countries where many people can't afford the medicines, or if the money had gone to research? 

Even if HIV isn't a death sentence in the western world today, the way we once thought it was, it still is in many parts of the world, parts of the world where people don't have access to the medicines they need, and without medicines, HIV eventually causes AIDS, and people DO still die from AIDS related illnesses. 

However I hope something good comes out of this: Awareness. 


I really recommend everyone to read it. 

The article brings up a lot of important points, not the least the use of language. HIV is not AIDS. HIV may lead to AIDS and people may die from AIDS related illnesses, but HIV is not AIDS. I could go through all the points here but I am in no way an expert, I know what I know because I have a passion for people, read a lot and learnt a lot as a blood donor, not the least through the "Open House" the blood donor central where I was donating in the beginning, close to my school, organised. It's better to let someone else explain - and the journalist, Mathew Rodriguez does it so well, so read  the article instead.

One thing worth pointing out though: There are a high number of people who have lived with HIV for more than 20 years out there, people that live like everyone else, except they have to be on medication to keep the virus levels low - because the fact is that when under treatment, virus levels in the blood can be so small that they can't even be detected in normal lab tests. HIV positive mothers can give birth to perfectly healthy children, if the mothers are given the right treatment.
HIV doesn't sound as dangerous any more, right?

Well, this is still a very important matter, not the least in poorer countries, countries where a lot of people still die from AIDS related illnesses.

We need to get rid of the stigma as stigma stops people from getting tested and without the test - how will they know that they have caught the virus and if you don't know you have the virus, you won't get the medicines you need? And furthermore; Untreated HIV might mean higher levels of the virus in the blood and hence more contagious - that's partly why the virus is still spreading fast in some countries; That, and the fact that in some areas medicines and general healthcare isn't easily accessible or not affordable for a big part of the population in many countries: THAT is tragedy. People dying, leaving children father- and motherless, leaving parents without children, people who die when they wouldn't have to, had they just had access to the right healthcare. THAT'S what media should write about. THAT is what we humans should be focusing on.

Not how Charlie Sheen may or may not have contracted the virus. 


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