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Before You Talk About Charlie Sheen Being HIV Positive, Here Are Some Things To Think About First

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After rumors of an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show spread Monday, it sure seems like Charlie Sheen is HIV positive. The troubled actor has long been the butt of many jokes ever since his very public breakdown in 2011 (remember #Winning?), but being HIV positive is no joke. Luckily, it’s also not a very big deal. Since it’s Charlie Sheen, though, jokes were bound to fly.

I don't have to tell you that HIV was once a very scary thing — the AIDs epidemic took many lives, and it took a very, very long time for drug companies to research cures. The good news, though? These days, most people diagnosed with HIV can take just one pill a day to suppress the virus (and its transmission rate). But according to reports, Sheen will allegedly be sharing that he's “HIV-free" when he speaks to Matt Lauer tomorrow. Here's the thing though: It's definitely a thing that HIV could be undetectable for some people; but regardless, if Sheen was ever diagnosed with HIV, he is far from cured. Thanks to modern medicine, and the hard work of activist groups who pay extra-close attention to the disease, as soon as someone is diagnosed with HIV these days, they can get the levels of the virus in your bloodstream down to undetectable levels.

I know; it’s confusing. According to Aids.gov, a person is still HIV positive if they’re "undetectable." It just means that a person with an undetectable level can’t really transmit the virus to another partner. Even better for HIV positive folks, it means that HIV people live with HIV and it never turns into AIDs or any AIDs related complication. It’s tricky terminology.

Most often, a person becomes undetectable if they’re taking antiretrovirals or HIV meds on a regular basis. If you have a gay, got male friend who hangs out on dating apps like Grindr, you’ll find that this is a very normal way of disclosing your status and staying safe. Just ask. Recently, Truvada, which is also known as PREP was endorsed by the World Health Organization. It was found that the drug, taken by negative partners, could prevent transmission. This is all super cool news for HIV positive people and their partners.

It’s harder for straight people in the United States. Advocates abound but still, HIV is not something many people talk about or even know how to talk about.

HIV Is Not The Same As AIDs

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It’s not your fault if you don’t know the difference, but it’s a big one. AIDs is not HIV. AIDs comes about when a person’s t-cell levels drop to a very low level and their immune system can’t put up a fight anymore. That’s why a person with HIV is treatable.

HIV Isn't Just For Gay Guys (Or Charlie Sheen)

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There’s a lot of stigma surrounding HIV.  You can’t get HIV from sharing just saliva: it has to be the more intimate bodily fluids. So it’s taken a very long time for governments and drug companies to dedicate resources to research cures. But HIV can happen to anyone. If you have sex, get tested on the regular.

No, Charlie Sheen Is Not The Worst

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So we can probably all agree to agree that Charlie Sheen isn't exactly a great spokesperson... for anything. He thinks he is made of tiger blood — no one wants him in their corner. But he is also pretty badass.

It's also undeniably hardcore to get on the Today show and talk about HIV. He might be loud and obnoxious, but he just might be the spokesperson that the HIV community needs.

Images: Michael Buckner/Getty Images