“The fight against AIDS is far from over:” Will Charlie Sheen’s admission refocus attention on HIV?

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MILWAUKEE -- Charlie Sheen confessed Tuesday, November 17th during a morning television interview that he is HIV positive. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Sheen's celebrity status may refocus the nation's attention on a once-captivating disease.

Charlie Sheen (Credit: Sean O'Key/CNN)

Charlie Sheen (Credit: Sean O'Key/CNN)

"The Charlie Sheen disclosure is an important reminder to all of us that the fight against AIDS is far from over," Michael Gifford said.

Gifford says Sheen's admission is much more than tabloid fodder.

"I am, in fact, HIV positive," Sheen said.

The 50-year-old actor confirmed the rumors on Tuesday morning.

"I have a responsibility now to better myself and to help a lot of other people," Sheen said.

"HIV remains a serious public health concern," Gifford said.

Gifford has been the president of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin for four years. He says Sheen's interview brings attention back to a disease affecting 8,000 people in Wisconsin.

"It's certainly a lesson about how we can protect ourselves from HIV. He acknowledges some of his behaviors put him at risk for HIV and and it's a reminder that there are tried and true ways to protect yourself from HIV," Gifford said.

The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin is located in Milwaukee.

Gifford says that's important -- because 60% of the state's HIV and AIDS patients are here in the city.

Michael Gifford

Michael Gifford

Gifford is hoping the Sheen interview will not only encourage people to get tested but to seek treatment as well.

"HIV is not the immediate death sentence that it once was if we think back 30 years," Gifford said.

In fact, Gifford says Wisconsin has some of the best services available to people living with HIV.

"86% of our patients have an undetectable viral load -- meaning they are as healthy as they can be with HIV, and Wisconsin has the lowest HIV death rate in America," Gifford said.

But Gifford says the stigma that comes with having HIV is still a very big challenge to overcome.

He hopes Sheen's interview helps people find their own strength to seek out treatment if they are living with it.