‘Charlie Sheen Effect’ Fuels Interest in HIV, Researchers Find

It may have been TMI for some, but Charlie Sheen’s admission he was infected with HIV fueled a potentially lifesaving surge in curiosity about the AIDS virus, researchers reported Monday.

More people Googled terms such as “HIV” after Sheen’s appearance on NBC’s TODAY show than ever before, the team reported.

Such interest can only be good in a country where ignorance about HIV can be deadly, John Ayers of San Diego State University and colleagues said.

“While no one should be forced to reveal HIV status, Sheen’s disclosure may benefit public health by helping many people learn more about HIV infection and prevention. More must be done to make this benefit larger and lasting,” they wrote in in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine.

Sheen not only disclosed that he was infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS — he also said he was taking a drug cocktail to keep himself healthy and to protect his sexual partners from infection.

Studies have shown the approach does work, but researchers have been frustrated by an apparent lack of interest and education about the pills. HIV cannot be cured and there is no vaccine to prevent it — but medication can keep patients healthy for decades.

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