Tag Archives: Charlie Sheen

‘Charlie Sheen effect’ on HIV


Google searches for HIV hit a record high in the US in the hours after actor Charlie Sheen announced that he was HIV positive, research reveals.

Investigators found 2.75m more Google searches than expected, based on previous trends, shortly after Sheen had appeared on US TV in November.  Web searches for condoms, HIV symptoms and HIV testing also rocketed.  The researchers say the ‘Sheen effect’ should be capitalised on, to further raise HIV awareness.

Story Via BBC


In relative terms, all HIV searches were 417 percent higher than expected on the day of Sheen’s disclosure.

Condom searches, such as “buy condoms”, increased 75%. HIV symptoms, such as “signs of HIV”, and HIV testing, such as “find HIV testing” searches increased 540% and 214%, respectively, the day of Sheen’s disclosure, and remained higher for three days.

Speaking in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, researcher Professor John Ayers, from San Diego State University, said: “While no one should be forced to reveal their HIV status and all diagnoses are tragic, Sheen’s disclosure may benefit public health by potentially helping many learn more about HIV and HIV prevention.

“More must be done to make this benefit larger and lasting.”

Back in November, Sheen, former start of sitcom Two And A Half Men, said he had gone to great lengths to keep his HIV status private.

He revealed to NBC presenter Matt Lauer that he had paid “enough to take it into the millions” to keep people from going public about his illness.

“I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths,” he said, adding he was diagnosed four years ago.

During that interview he said: “If there was one guy on this planet to contract this that’s going to deliver a cure, it’s me. It’s me. Seriously.

“I’m not going to be the poster man for this, but I will not shun away from responsibilities and opportunities that drive me to helping others.”

He’s not the first celebrity with health issues to cause a ripple effect in public behaviour.

Awareness of breast removal and reconstruction ops increased massively after Angelina Jolie’s experiences were reported in the media.

Likewise, cervical cancer screening uptake went up after reality TV star Jade Goody died from the disease.

Alex Sparrowhawk, Membership Officer of Terrence Higgins Trust said there was no question that Charlie Sheen’s forced disclosure had a huge impact, not only in the US but worldwide.

“As the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust website had its busiest day ever on 17 November, with almost 20,000 page views. The most popular covered ‘Stages of HIV infection’, ‘Getting Help Now’ and ‘What are HIV and AIDS’?

He said the “media circus” surrounding the Sheen story and the public reaction showed some attitudes were ignorant and outdated.

“There is definitely more work to be done in educating the public on HIV, but also in how the media report on HIV. It must be more widely understood as the long-term manageable health condition that it now is.”

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The fight goes on against HIV

HIV Stigma

The progress made in the treatment of HIV infection in recent years cannot be overstated. What was once a death sentence is now treatable. A HIV patient beginning treatment today can hope to have to a normal life expectancy, albeit one dependent on continuous medical treatment. Those with undetectable viral loads have almost no chance of transmitting infection, nor does infection prevent people going on to have children.

Story via The Pharmaceutical Journal

You would find it hard to believe therefore that this month the headline ‘Hollywood HIV panic’ ran in the UK’s biggest circulation tabloid The Sun in reference to an actor being diagnosed with HIV. Charlie Sheen announced soon after that he has been living with HIV for the past four years. The worst part about the illness, said Sheen, is the shame that comes with it. People do not take action or get help because of the stigma, he added.

In the West, you could have been forgiven for thinking we had grown to accept people living with HIV. Many individuals who have challenged the early misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and many more people who have learnt to embrace their status and campaign for greater public acceptance have done much to reduce the stigma of disease and educate the public about HIV infection.

Yet stigmatisation of people living with HIV remains a major problem worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites fear of stigma and discrimination as the main reason why people are reluctant to get tested, disclose their HIV status and take antiretroviral drugs.

Some national governments still deny the existence of HIV, dismissing it as a disease of the West confined to those who are sexually deviant. It is in these countries where those living with the virus will continue to die unnecessarily.

Stigma creates a culture of fear, and this fear could lead to people refusing to get tested, begin treatment and stop the virus from spreading further.

Nonetheless, in the past few years great progress has been made in the battle against the HIV epidemic. Previously, diagnosing HIV infection was cumbersome and slow. The standard medical practice was to hold off initiating treatment until a patient’s CD4 cell count dropped to a level where they were at higher risk of developing AIDS. Much attention is now directed at identifying those at risk and swiftly diagnosing those infected with the virus, and there is growing evidence that those diagnosed should be started on treatment as soon as possible. For example, the START trial, carried out in 35 countries, was stopped over a year early after interim results showed that the health benefits of starting antiretroviral drugs immediately, regardless of CD4 cell counts, outweighed the potential risk to health. The WHO recommends that anyone infected with HIV should begin antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis.

The use of treatment as prevention (TasP) — a HIV prevention method that uses antiretroviral treatment (ART) to decrease the risk of HIV transmission — continues to grow. In 2011, the landmark study HPTN 052 showed early initiation of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in those with a CD4+ cell count between 350 and 550 for the HIV-infected partner in a serodiscordant couple reduced HIV transmission to the HIV-negative partner by 96%.

Moreover, this year the WHO recommended that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) — giving ARVs to protect people from HIV before potential exposure — should be offered to all those who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (previously, it was recommended that only certain affected populations, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs, received PreP).

Earlier in 2015, the world exceeded the AIDS targets of Millennium Development Goal 6 — halting and reversing the spread of HIV, with new HIV infections falling by 35% and AIDS-related deaths decreasing by 41%.

Meanwhile, new ARTs continue to enter the market and new formulations are being researched.

All of these indicate that the fight against HIV and AIDS is heading in the right direction in terms of drug treatment and research. However, if further progress is to be made, this will depend on identifying everyone who has the virus, which continues to be a challenge — and stigma plays a large part in this.

So although we have come a long way, there is still more to do, particularly in terms of educating people and changing their attitudes towards HIV, if we are to ever see the last of this virus.

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