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What Charlie Sheen’s Revelation Means For HIV Stigma In San Diego

Ian Johnson, events director for the San Diego LGBT Community Center, talks with KPBS Evening Edition host Peggy Pico about living with HIV and the stigma around the disease.

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available. A transcript has been made available.

Actor Charlie Sheen announced Tuesday that he's been living with HIV for four years.

The revelations were shocking to some. But unlike the AIDS panic in the 1980s and 90s, HIV today isn't a death sentence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV. San Diego County has the third largest number of HIV and AIDS cases in California.

Dan Lee, clinical professor of medicine at UC San Diego, said the last time a celebrity of Sheen’s stature spoke out was in 1991 when NBA star Magic Johnson announced he was HIV-positive.

“That’s 24 years ago,” Lee told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday. “I’m not surprised at all that an announcement like this would garner such attention.”

Lee said it isn’t common knowledge that people with HIV can still live long, healthy lives.

“HIV is a much more manageable disease,” he said. “I’m hoping that the story with Charlie Sheen will continue to bring more light to this issue.”

Ian Johnson, events coordinator at the San Diego LGBT Community Center has been living with HIV for more than 10 years. He appreciated Charlie Sheen speaking out.

“It’s OK to be living with HIV,” Johnson said. “It’s safer to have sex with me than with someone who has not had an HIV test in over six months.”


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