Doctors and researchers say they hope actor Charlie Sheen’s announcement of contracting HIV elevates awareness among people.
"Anytime that HIV gets into the public conversation is an opportunity. Now whether or not what we chose to do about it…will determine if it's good or bad,” Jordan Delmundo, executive director of Nebraska Aids Project.
However, some people say it is difficult to view the A-lister as a poster child, considering his troubled past with drug use and alcohol.
“Rather than promoting more information for it, I think people are making a mockery of it,” says Mirakle Crockett, a University of Nebraska Omaha student who is studying medicine.
People are shaming the actor and saying he deserves it, says Crockett.
A day after the actor's announcement, a scientist who co-discovered the virus gave a lecture at University of Nebraska Medical Center to discuss his work.
What used to be considered a death sentence is now taken lightly, according to Dr. Robert Gallo.
"There's still reason to be sufficiently concerned and of course we don't have the problem solved,” says Dr. Gallo. “It's partly right – let’s be honest – that you can be a little less concerned. But it's also partly significantly wrong because the long term effects are still being studied.”
Granted research and treatment have come a long way, Dr. Gallo says, however even the best therapy in the world may have side effects such as cancer and risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Another misnomer surrounding HIV is young people often contract the virus. Yet, 25 percent of those who are diagnose with HIV are age 50 and above.
“We are seeing people living longer who are affected when they were younger,” says Dr. Gallo.
Also, sex education is a relatively modern concept, says Delmundo.
"That's the generation that doesn't necessarily have sex [education] at all,” says Delmundo. “Maybe their partner has passed on. Maybe they're dating again. They never had that kind of education or information about HIV.”