Expert: Despite Medical Advances, Stigma Still Surrounds HIV

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A local expert talked with FOX40 about HIV in America following Charlie Sheen's announcement Tuesday that he has been HIV positive for four years.

"The stigma certainly isn't as bad as it was 20 years ago or 15 years ago but it's still there. We know that there are people who don't want to come in to CARES, don't even want to walk in the door, because then if people see them they may think well you must be HIV positive. When in fact we treat far more people without HIV than we do people with HIV," Janet Parker said.

Parker is the Director of Strategy and Market Developer for CARES Community Health Center, a federally funded general health center that specializes in HIV treatment.

Parker said that 5,000 people in Sacramento are living in with HIV. While there is still no cure for the disease there is plenty people can do to control it. She said the cost of treatment is covered for all HIV patients under the Ryan White Care Act. She added most people who follow anti-retroviral therapy according to their doctors orders live long, normal lives.

"If they have their viral load under control, which can happen when they take their HIV mreds as prescribed, follow doctors instructions, you're very very unlikely to infect someone else. I mean it's very unlikely....getting your viral load under control isn't 100 recent either, there's a small percentage, 2 ,3 , 4 precent of the people that it won't control," Parker said.

Parker said Sheen's claim that he is very unlikely to transmit HIV to someone else because therapy has made his virus undetectable could very well be true.

"People do know there are treatments for HIV and it's not a death sentence, you can live a normal life," Parker said.

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