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Charlie Sheen opens up about HIV status, and starts a public health conversation




Charlie Sheen at the Hollywood Walk of Fame star unveiling for Chuck Lorre, his former boss.
Charlie Sheen at the Hollywood Walk of Fame star unveiling for Chuck Lorre, his former boss.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

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Actor Charlie Sheen confirmed the rumors: the former TV star revealed he is HIV positive.

"It a hard 3 letters to absorb," he told NBC's Today Show. "It's a turning point in one's life."

According to the interview, Sheen has lived with HIV for four years.

While the virus is not the devastating killer it once was, the disease is still a serious public health concern. 

"There are currently about 1.2 million people living with HIV, and about 13 percent of those don't know they're infected," says Ian Holloway at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs.  "There are about 50,000 new infections every year."

Holloway says an announcement by someone like Sheen helps to shine a spotlight on an issue that may have fallen off the radar by some of the public.

"There is still a lot of stigma that exists around HIV," he says. "Being able to have more of an open conversation about it, which I think is something that anytime a celebrity discloses an HIV status, reminds us that these conversations need to take place."