One of the most controversial celebrities of our time Charlie Sheen who cynically stated that he cured his drug addiction by blinking his eyes and curing his brain, yes that guy, is presently under fire for deliberately having unprotected sex with several women without disclosing his HIV positive status to them. One of them is his ex-girlfriend of over a year, Bree Olson. He said he loved her, and had unprotected sex with her, every time. Knowing he could put her at risk of contrasting the virus.
Charlie who recently went on the Today show with his physician, Dr. Robert Huizenga, revealed his HIV positive status saying he has known for four years now.
Sheen was dating ex-girlfriend Bree Olson for a year and they both always had unprotected sex and not once did he disclose his status to her. After he came out last week, Bree got on a popular radio show in the US to talk about how the announcement had affected her and aired her own side of the story.
She said she was shocked with the revelation because Charlie never told her he was HIV+ even though they were together for over a year and always had unprotected sex. Sometimes they use lamb skin condoms, (which on its own doesn’t really stop the virus from getting into the bloodstream unlike latex condoms) but most times, it was skin to skin.
These lambskin condoms are officially called natural membrane condoms, because they are made from a thin layer of lamb intestine. They’ve proven to effectual at preventing pregnancy, but aren’t recommended for HIV prevention.
Reason for its ineffectiveness in preventing pregnancies is because the natural membrane condoms have pores large enough for the HIV virus to pass through, while latex condoms impervious (99%) so the virus remains trapped in it after ejaculation and can’t penetrate if the woman is infected. – Antonio Urbina, an associate professor of medicine.
She confessed that they had sex almost everyday during their relationship. That is 365 times she should have contracted the virus. She went to get tested and came back negative because Charlie’s viral load is undetectable. She shared her results on the show.
How is this possible? How can one have unprotected sex with an HIV positive person and not get infected? Because Charlie Sheen is on a treatment called antiretroviral therapy (ART), which slows down the progress of the HIV virus in the blood using a combination of specific drugs a combination of drugs.
The job of these ARTs is to drastically reduce the quantity of the virus in your body (which is called viral load).
So, as your treatment progresses and the ARTs begin to work, your viral load reduces to the point where it can be undetected in your blood stream even when you go to get tested, you end up testing negative. Although, you aren’t free from the virus, but the virus has become uninfective ie you can’t infect anyone since the virus’s ability to be transmitted is nonexistent.
Although this might sound as good news to people living with HIV and AIDS, PLWHA, its important to note that taking ARTs doesn’t entirely eliminate the virus from your blood. What we’ve done for years, for decades, is accept the belief that safe sex is protected sex, which is sex with a condom,” he says. “But the scientific evidence is very, very clear.
If somebody is on ART treatment, and has an undetectable virus, the risk of transmission of HIV, with or without a condom, is essentially zero.But to be clear: “Essentially” zero doesn’t mean “literally” zero. – Benjamin Young, M.D., Ph.D., the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care.
According to a 2014 CDC study published in the journal AIDS, an HIV positive man on ART has just a 0.2 percent chance of passing on the virus to his female partner over the course of one year. If he’s using condoms then the risk drops as low as 0.05 percent.
A study carried out in France in 2014 showed that in 8 percent of HIV positive men, while the blood test declared the men negative, their semen samples came back positive. So your blood can be negative and your sperm will read positive. Therefore having an undetectable viral load doesn’t mean the virus isn’t still in the bloodstream. Although Dr Urbina states that “Whether or not that can lead to transmission is still unknown.
Fluctuations in reading viral load can also be affected if the individual misses or stops taking the ARTs which an spike the virus up a can make it infectious, flu and other infections can also affect the viral load too.
The reason why Charlie Sheen was able to get away with an “undetectable viral load” is because he has the money to pay for the treatment seeing as not every HIV positive person can afford this drugs. The journey within the last two decades regarding the virus has been remarkable from dying upon diagnosis to being able to live a full life irrespective of testing positive by taking ARVs.
Hopefully the journey from here will be to discover and produce these ARTs and make them affordable for PLWHA so that they can also have undetectable viral loads and be uninfectious in their blood.
Charlie might be facing jail time of up to eight years but this new piece of information just might turn his case around if his partners test negative.
Take a lesson from Bree Olson and know your partners status if you intend having unprotected sex, also inform your partner if you’re at risk of transmitting the virus to them. Those who love you will stay with you irrespective of your status.
Bree said, “He doesn’t even value my life”. Yeah we know how you feel. You would feel the same if your partner had unprotected sex with you knowing they are at risk of infecting you with a virus and didn’t love you enough to tell you.
Moral: If you don’t know their status, USE LATEX CONDOMS.
Photo Credit, MensH