What You Can Learn From Charlie Sheen’s Story

AIDS HIV awareness

This week, I talk to my friend Charlie Sheen for two very important shows. You may remember that Charlie recently announced that he had been diagnosed with HIV about four years ago. According to him and his doctor, he has been getting treatment and has an undetectable viral load, which means that using standard technology, particles of the HIV virus cannot be detected in his blood. This is the goal when treating HIV, as it gives those diagnosed an almost normal life and life expectancy.

Watch: A Look At What’s New in HIV Treatment

But Charlie is also battling substance abuse along with his fight against HIV. Since his case is so complicated, I wanted to take some time to talk about each of these diseases, as well as provide some resources for those who are suffering or have a loved one suffering from one or both of these diseases for more support.

When it comes to HIV, the most important thing to remember is to never go off your medication, even if you think you feel fine. There is no cure for HIV, but thanks to developments over the years, there are very good treatments available. It’s important that once you and your doctor find your treatment plan, you stick to it no matter what. For Charlie, his adherence to his HIV treatment plan is critical to his health.

For more information and help regarding HIV, visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) at www.niaid.nih.gov.

Substance abuse can be an extremely debilitating disease, and many, including Charlie, can suffer a relapse from time to time. If you or someone you know is dealing with substance abuse, there are many resources available for help. Visit our National Night of Conversation page for more information.

What has surprised me most about my time as a cardiothoracic surgeon is how much I have learned about depression. I’ve seen numerous surgeries where the depression from a patient’s substance abuse or other disease has actually contributed to his or her heart disease. These cases serve as a reminder that taking care of both our minds and our bodies is critical when it comes to our health. We need to be kind to our bodies and find the proper treatment when problems do occur.

I’m thankful to talk to Charlie Sheen this week as a chance to use his story not to sensationalize it or use as an example to follow, but instead to educate those who may be in a similar situation, or know someone who is. I hope this show encourages them to seek out a treatment plan that’s right for them with the help of a doctor, and stick to it.