In an interview on NBC’s Today Show, the actor Charlie Sheen (best known for his role in the American television sitcom, Two and a Half Men) confirmed that he has tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
37 million people worldwide are living with HIV
HIV kills or impairs cells of the immune system, eventually and progressively destroying the body’s ability to fight infections. According to the World Health Organization, 37 million people worldwide are living with HIV; 7% of those are children under 15 years old. Although the vast majority of HIV cases are in sub-Saharan Africa (70%), HIV remains a global concern.
HIV is a bloodborne pathogen, which is spread through the blood, semen, rectal and vaginal fluids and breast milk of an HIV-infected person. Following are some of the ways HIV may be transmitted:
- Having unprotected sex with someone who has HIV. Anal, vaginal and oral sex are all risky.
- Sharing needles with someone who has HIV.
- Receiving HIV-contaminated blood through blood transfusions or organ/tissue transplants.
- Being born to, or breastfed by, an HIV-infected mother.
- Being stuck with a needle that was used on an HIV-infected patient.
Outside of the human body, HIV cannot reproduce and does not survive for long. HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva, tears or sweat; coughing or sneezing; air or water; casual contact, like touching or hugging; nor can it be carried by insects (like mosquitoes).
Although there is no cure for HIV, treatment through antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help HIV-infected people live longer, healthier lives. ART is a prescribed regimen of HIV medicines that prevents HIV from multiplying, thereby reducing the amount of HIV in your body. Reducing the amount of HIV allows your immune system to recover and to fight off infections. Untreated, HIV will eventually progress to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). People diagnosed with AIDS will typically succumb to cancer or opportunistic infections that take advantage of a weakened immune system.