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Charlie Sheen’s HIV-positive: What that means to you

PHOTO: Charlie Sheen talking about being HIV-positive with Matt Lauer on “Today.”  |  Peter Kramer~NBC via AP 

By now you probably have heard that Charlie Sheen announced on “Today” that he has been diagnosed HIV-positive.

For the 50-year-old actor that means he can stop paying the millions he says he’s been doling out to persons who have been blackmailing him. (I don’t care what you think of Sheen and his behavior over the years, there has to be a special place in hell for people exploiting a guy with an incurable illness.) 

But for the rest of us, this is a teachable moment.

Maybe you missed the first lesson, as Matt Lauer began the interview, since it was so subtle. The broadcaster immediately and with no hesitation shook Sheen’s outstretched hand.

What’s that reminding you? That HIV cannot be contracted through casual contact. (HIV, by the way is short for human immunodeficiency virus.) Here’s a direct quote from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:

“HIV is not spread through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, cigarettes, pets, or insects. HIV is not spread through the air, and it does not live long outside the body.”

But here’s how the disease can be contracted: by having sex or sharing the tools people use to inject drugs.

When it comes to drugs, that means no sharing needles. Ever.

As for sex, that means using a latex condom the correct way and every time you have sex to avoid getting HIV (or any other STD, for that matter) or transmitting the disease if one is HIV-positive. That means every sex act requires a new latex condom. 

One of Sheen’s former girlfriends, Bree Olson, has been telling media outlets that when the two had sex they used lambskin condoms. Experts say that while lambskin condoms can prevent pregnancy, they should not be used to prevent HIV or other STDs. (Olson also is telling news outlets she has not tested positive for HIV.)

Alright, need a lesson on the correct way to use a condom? Follow this advice from the CDC here. (You have to scroll down a bit.)

And now I am going to close this by going off topic a bit. Sheen was on the show with his doctor, Dr. Robert Huizenga. Fans of the “Biggest Loser” know him as Dr. H on the weight-loss reality show that’s on the same network, NBC, as “Today.”  (BTW, Huizenga at one time was team doctor for the LA Raiders and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at UCLA.) Just an interesting side note.