(CBS) — Actor Charlie Sheen revealed today on national television that he is HIV positive and has known about it for four years.
The diagnosis used to be thought of a death sentence, but today the CDC estimates more than 1.2 million people are living with the virus.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole has one local man’s story on living a productive live with HIV.
Jim Pickett has run three marathons and enjoys adventurous travel throughout the world. There was also a time he didn’t expect his future to be so fulfilling. Pickett has been HIV positive since 1995.
Actor Charlie Sheen’s announcement on the Today Show that he is HIV positive is throwing the spotlight on people like Jim, living active productive lives with a condition that’s become more survivable over the years.
“When I found out, I really thought the clock was ticking,” Pickett said.
At first Jim, a counselor with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, took a cocktail of nearly 20 pills throughout the day leaving him listless and nauseous.
What’s changed is the development of antiretroviral drugs, which slow down the growth of HIV, which threatens a person’s immune system.
“It was a paradigm shift into how do we prepare people to live?” Pickett said.
Now for most patients, one daily pill with few side effects keeps them in check. Jim’s HIV has been undetectable for years.
“The HIV piece isn’t actually the biggest part of my problem sometimes,” Pickett said. “I have asthma, I have allergies.”
It’s estimated there are some 43,500 individuals in Illinois living with HIV. Sheen is hoping his admission highlights the survivability of the condition and improves their lives.
“I have a responsibility now to better myself and to help a lot of other people,” Sheen said.
Antiretroviral medicines are also for the masses, not just the wealthy. Pickett tells people he’s counseling that they are covered by standard insurance programs. He merely pays a reasonable deductible.
Also for people who may be underinsured or uninsured various national assistance programs are available to help pay for the care that leads to a productive healthier life.