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Charlie Sheen's HIV Not Likely a Death Sentence

Charlie Sheen's HIV Not Likely a Death Sentence
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By    |   Tuesday, 17 November 2015 10:06 PM

Charlie Sheen’s disclosure that he is HIV-positive comes at a time when the virus is no longer always a precursor to deadly AIDS but instead is a manageable ailment that is not likely to kill him, a top expert says.

“The good news about HIV is that it can be treated and a person can do quite well and live a reasonably normal life,” Dr. Julie McElrath, tells Newsmax Health.

Sheen revealed  on NBC’s “Today” show that he was diagnosed with HIV four years ago, but had decided to come forward now to end rumors about his health.

He does not have AIDS, and he is doing well under treatment, he also said.

More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, and the rate of infection has remained relatively stable at about 50,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Years ago, acquiring HIV invariably led to AIDS, the last stage of the infection, and was fatal within a year. But the advent of effective drugs changed that, says Dr. McElrath, director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

HIV’s transformation from a fatal disease into one that is manageable has come with the development of antiviral drugs in the 1990s that have made it possible to drastically reduce – although not completely eliminate – the virus, says Dr. McElrath.

“The turning point came when we found a combination of drugs that could be used to prevent the virus from replicating. This has been the mainstay of treatment, and, while it doesn’t completely eliminate the virus, it does control it,” Dr. McElrath says.

“If you get into treatment early, and you can tolerate the drugs well, you can come pretty close to having a normal lifespan,” she added.

The treatment is known as combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) and a 2013 study found that, thanks to it, someone in their 20s who gets HIV can now expect to live into their 70s.

While this treatment doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility that the disease could progress to AIDS, the likelihood of this occurring has become far less, Dr. McElrath notes.

In 2013, an estimated 47,352 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States and, that same year, an estimated 26,688 people were diagnosed with AIDS, the CDC says.

There are now nearly 1.2 million Americans living with AIDS and about 13,700 died in 2012 of the disease, the CDC’s latest figures show.

But getting diagnosed early before the virus has a chance to replicate is a key to staying healthy despite being HIV positive, says Dr. McElrath.

“The best way to prevent HIV from becoming AIDS is to start treatment early because if you wait too long then you could be setting yourself up for complications that can lead to AIDS,” she notes.

This is a problem, because an estimated one-in-eight Americans who have HIV are unaware of it, the CDC says.

In addition to following their doctor’s treatment recommendations, people with HIV should follow good nutritional and fitness practices to boost their immune systems “much like anyone less,” Dr. McElrath says.

In addition, those with the disease should also get an annual flu shot as well as take commonsense precautions to avoid getting sick, she adds.

Another key is to avoid spreading the virus to others by practicing safe sex, Dr. McElrath notes.

“You need to take the same steps you would to avoid getting any sexually transmitted disease; practice safe sex and use a condom,” she says.



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Charlie Sheen's disclosure that he is HIV-positive comes at a time when the virus is no longer always a precursor to deadly AIDS but instead is a manageable ailment. In fact, with new antiviral drugs, it is not a condition that is likely to kill him, a top expert says.
charlie, sheen, HIV, death, sentence, aids, virus
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2015-06-17
Tuesday, 17 November 2015 10:06 PM
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