INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Those in the HIV community in Indiana hope Charlie Sheen’s admission to having the virus will bring awareness to the disease.
In the basement of The Damien Center in Indianapolis, Larmarques Smith, stocks shelves to help feed people living with HIV. It’s an illness that he sees take a toll on people.
“You have to be more conscious of your health,” Smith said. Smith knows this firsthand, because he’s been HIV positive for eight years.
“It can be tough to talk about, but you have to talk about it,” Smith said. Exactly like Charlie Sheen did on Tuesday.
“It was really hard for me to tell my mother about my status,” Smith said. “I can’t imagine telling my mother while watching Good Morning America kind of thing.”
Others at the Damien Center were intrigued by the interview that Sheen gave, since the organization helps those living with HIV and AIDS. And they hope Sheen’s situation will bring a positive spotlight to the illness.
“Anytime someone who has any degree of notoriety experiences something like HIV, it’s something that gets your attention,” Damien Center Director of Supportive Services, Jeremy Turner said.
Damien Center officials hope more people are willing to get tested, and want people to know it’s really easy. People don’t need to give blood, and can get results in 20 minutes.
Medicine has improved since the disease was first documents and Indiana University Health physician Diane Janowicz says there’s been major advancements.
“Today we can say patients routinely take one or two pills a day for their HIV that controls it well and they should expect to live a normal, healthy life,” Janowicz said.
The Indiana State Department of Health says nearly 4,800 people have the disease in Marion County, and hundreds of others in the surrounding counties.
While there is no cure, Smith hopes stories like his and Sheen’s, will bring awareness.
“If you’re sexually active, go get tested,” Smith said. “It affects everybody.”
While there’s been advancements in medical care, it’s still not cheap because the medicine can cost upwards of $2,000 dollars a month.
If anyone is interested in learning more about the virus or how to get tested, click here.