Last week, there was a report in the Sun titled “HIV Hollywood Panic.” According to the British tabloid, an unnamed “A-list star” has been diagnosed as HIV positive, which reportedly has had people talking in Hollywood. The alleged actor in question has a had bad boy reputation and is known for his “womanizing” ways.
Now that there’s news that Charlie Sheen set to make his important announcement on the Today show on Tuesday, November 15, many assume he has HIV. Now, people want to know more about the human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that can lead to AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and AIDS.gov, there are 1.2 million people in the U.S. that are currently living with HIV — and about 12.8 percent of those people are unaware that they have the disease.
However, recent infections of HIV have remained stable, at 50,000 infections per year. HIV is often treated with a combination of medications through antiretroviral therapy. These medicines prevent HIV from multiplying and allow one’s immune system to recover. The cost to treat HIV is estimated at $379,668 over the course of one’s lifetime. The government has said that 30 percent of HIV patients are uninsured.
In addition, there are over 1.2 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with the AIDS virus. In 2012, 13,712 people died from the disease.
Although HIV is preventable and treatable, such a stigma associated with HIV still exists, as previously pointed out by contributor Dr. Steve Taylor of the Huffington Post. He slammed the Sun for peddling towards that kind of stigma.
“Saving Lives exists to combat these prejudices, and we have succeeded in placing positive stories about HIV in national media outlets — including The Sun. That’s why it’s so sad to see the newspaper resort to out-dated stereotypes with this ‘story’.”
According to Taylor, everyone has been affected from the HIV stigma. It’s the reason why many people are scared off from getting tested in the first place.
National HIV Testing Week is coming up, which means that Sexual health charity Herts Aid will be offering free tests starting November 21. The charity will offer a “finger prick” HIV testing at general practitioner locations, pharmacies, and other local venues to help create awareness of HIV and increase testing.
“Many people don’t have HIV but don’t know it. Perhaps they don’t think they could have HIV, assume they are HIV negative or have never got round to testing.
“We’re urging people to consider taking a test this HIV Testing Week so they know their status for sure. HIV screening takes 10 minutes out of your busy schedules, but the positive effects of early diagnosis can last a lifetime.”
In fact, early testing can help save lives, as noted in the Huffington Post reports. And the finger prick test can give you a result almost immediately. It may seem scary, but it’s better to know whether or not you have HIV then to go around wondering all your life. If the test comes back positive, Herts Aid will arrange a follow up test at a local sexual health clinic to confirm the test results.
The individual will also receive information and support on HIV. The tests will take place in private rooms at all local venues, according to the St. Albans Review.
Those who don’t live in the U.K. or live in the U.S. can take a rapid HIV test at any Planned Parenthood health center if you think you have been infected.
If you don’t feel comfortable going to a clinic or health center but would like to get tested, you can always take an in-home HIV test such as OraQuick, which is also FDA approved.
You should get tested for HIV at least once in your life. How often you should get tested depends on your lifestyle or your circumstances. The CDC recommends that you should get tested at least once a year if have sex with multiple partners, sex with someone who is HIV positive or whose status you don’t know, have same-sex relations, have shared needles or syringes, or have used illegal injected drugs.
[Photo Courtesy of C. Goldsmith / CDC via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0]