COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Actor Charlie Sheen revealed to the world just a few days ago that he's been HIV positive for four years.
There's no cure for the disease but if detected early, it can be treated successfully.
News Leader 9's Irisha Jones spoke with a nonprofit organization in East Alabama dedicated to the well-being of HIV patients and creating a healthier community.
Unity Wellness in Opelika says they want to make sure those living with HIV are getting the care that they need. They say if everyone learns what causes HIV, what behaviors can increase your risk, and how to prevent it, it can stop the virus from spreading.
Those in the medical profession say the disease is a serious condition that requires immediate attention.
"HIV is an terminal illness if it's untreated. However it can be treated and managed successfully," said Chase Cox, Patient Education Counselor.
Unity Wellness Center in Opelika is an HIV Clinic that serves Macon, Lee, Russell Tallapoosa and Chambers counties. Sheen's announcement brings stigma and judgment surrounding the virus. Cox says HIV is mostly transmitted through some sort of sexual activity.
"There is this long period of time on average of 7-10 years where the person has no HIV symptoms but has no they do have the virus," said Cox.
The well-known actor also says his HIV is undetected, but that doesn't mean you're in the clear. If treatments are stopped the virus can reproduce again.
"We have pretty sophisticated laboratory test. We can look at a person's blood and we can see how much virus exits in their blood stream. Our treatment is so effective that we can bring that number down to the point where we can not detect it," said Cox.
Cox says most people are also under the impression that HIV medications are unaffordable, but federal and state funds helps with treatments.
"Everyone gets treated for HIV in this country," said Cox.
Cox also says it's important for high risk individuals to get tested every 6 months to a year. His clinic provides HIV testing-that only takes 20 minutes to find out your status.
Unity Wellness says they are also seeing rising numbers of chlamydia and gonorrhea for the first time in many years.