Charlie Sheen should be getting a big fat thank you from HIV activists for willing to become a “guinea pig for HIV research,” according to his manager, Mark Burg.
“Instead of activists saying [Sheen] is spitting in [their] faces, how about thanking him for risking his life and becoming a guinea pig for HIV research?” Burg told TheWrap.
Sheen’s announcement on “The Dr. Oz Show” on Tuesday that he’s been off his meds and seeking “alternative treatment” in Mexico has angered HIV activists who worry others might follow his lead and stop taking lifesaving antiretroviral medications.
“He’s spitting in the face of the men and women who have done the hard work and who have saved his life,” Peter Staley, who is credited with helping to push pharmaceutical companies and the government to develop today’s life-saving drugs, told TheWrap. “His initial viral load when he was first diagnosed was 4.4 million. If it weren’t for those treatments, he would be dead today. I’m sure of it.”
But Sheen’s manager says Sheen is grateful for the work done by AIDS activists and is only doing his part to try and find a cure for the disease.
“We’ve received calls from 15 different people who say they have found a cure. All Charlie is saying is, ‘If there is anything I can do to help I’m willing to put my life at risk.'”
Burg explained that Sheen was off his meds for about four weeks but went back on his antiretroviral drugs after the experimental treatment he sought south of the border didn’t work.
“He was back on his meds within hours of finding out his viral load had gone up,” Burg said.
Burg insisted that Sheen will continue to seek other possible cures.
“The only way Charlie could test the [Mexican] doctor’s theory was to get off his medication.”
On Tuesday, Sheen shocked AIDS activists when he announced on “The Dr. Oz Show” that he was off his meds and seeking “alternative” treatment in Mexico.
“I’ve been off my meds for about a week now,” he told Dr. Mehmet Oz. in an episode that taped in December. “Am I risking my life? Sure. So what? I was born dead. That part of it doesn’t faze me at all.”
Sheen said he was seeking treatment from a physician named Dr. Sam Chachoua, whom Dr. Oz says is not licensed to practice medicine in the United States.
But doctors who specialize in treating HIV warn that going off meds is not only inadvisable — even for one day — but it could also put others at risk.
“It’s O.K. to read and do research,” HIV specialists Dr. Frank Spinelli told TheWrap. “But to trust so-called alternative cures that have no cure is stupid.”
Spinelli explains that “two things can happen when you go off your meds: You can become resistant to the antiretrovirals, and you increase the risk of passing the virus to someone else because your viral load is no longer undetectable.”
According to Spinelli, Sheen’s case is not uncommon.
“Everyone wants to believe they found a panacea,” he said. “I feel sorry for people who chase after alternative cures when we have scientific data that shows there is currently no cure for HIV.”
In November, Sheen told “Today” host Matt Lauer that he had been living with HIV for about four years. At the time he was taking his medication and, according to his doctor, his viral load was undetectable.