Charlie Sheen's announcement puts HIV in the spotlight

- Charlie Sheen's admission of his HIV positive status places him among nearly 1.2 million Americans living with the infection.

"I was diagnosed many years ago back in the 90s," said Tampa resident Paula Delgado.

Delgado told FOX 13 she can empathize with the well-known actor.

"If I'd known back then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have been as scared," she said.

That's because HIV is no longer considered the killer it once was. Today it's a different ball game.

"There's all kind of treatments now. There is hope now," Delgado said.

For example, Delgado is now down to just taking one pill a day, compared to the 32 she used to take.

"It is just like taking a vitamin for me now," she said.

There are also preventative drugs, like "PrEP," which if taken daily, can help reduce the chances of contracting HIV by up to 92 percent.

Then there's "nPEP," which can help prevent infection if taken within 72 hours after contact. Still, no cure exists for HIV or AIDS.

"In the Tampa Bay area, that's Tampa and St. Pete, there are 11,000 plus living with HIV," said Kristen Whitesell, prevention program manager with Metro Heath Wellness & Community. "A lot of people say they don't know anyone that's HIV positive. I guarantee you do."

Whitesell has a simple message for everyone:

"Everyone is at risk. Everyone should get tested," she said.
 

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