Charlie Sheen is back making headlines after a breathtaking bit on the "The Dr. Oz Show."
The interview, recorded in December, contained several revelations, not the least of which included Sheen's story that he visited a doctor in Mexico who claimed to be able to cure HIV. So, with that supposed cure in mind, Sheen – who made national headlines when he disclosed he was HIV-positive – said he stopped taking his HIV medication for a time.
Writing for Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams explained that, on the program, Sheen said he journeyed south to see "Dr. Samir Chachoua, who Oz says is not licensed to practice in the U.S. A site purportedly 'created by a Group representing all the very ill and terminal patients successfully treated and cured by Dr. Sam Chachoua' claims 'Nothing is incurable.'"
The site also, coincidentally, sells a "universal elixir supplement for nearly $400.”
In one of the most bizarre claims, Page Six reported that "Chachoua was so confident in his own treatment abilities that he injected himself with Sheen's blood." To his credit, Dr. Oz called the fantastical claim about the blood swap, if true, to be "inappropriate" medically.
Writing for Jezebel, Stassa Edwards lamented, "The whole segment is admittedly disturbing, but also a persistent reminder that AIDS and HIV denialists still exist, and there will always be doctors willing to hawk an empty – and potentially lethal – promise for the sake of money."
The Mexican miracle cure didn't seem to work – Sheen admitted to Oz that, after remaining undetectable for awhile, his viral load had started to climb after he discontinued his HIV medication.
Modern, FDA-approved HIV treatments interfere HIV's ability to reproduce. In response to HIV medication, the copies of the virus in an HIV-positive person's bloodstream winnows eventually to levels that cannot be measured.
This state, called undetectable, has big ramifications: It usually means an HIV-positive person has a typical life – and is incredibly statistically unlikely to transmit HIV to sex partners.
In other words, it's imperative for HIV-positive folks to stay on their medication. Logically, when HIV-positive people go off their medication, HIV begins to reproduce again. This resurgence in the absence of medication takes a bit of time, however.
Sheen's public gambit for a cure from a person many people are calling a "quack," while perhaps understandable, garnered swift opprobrium from long-time HIV activists.
"As I watched this craziness play out, my compassion for this man vanished," Staley wrote. "He will surely convince others to seek out 'Dr.' Chachoua in Mexico, and some of those folks might end up dead."
Likewise, HIV-positive activist and writer Mark S. King was unimpressed with Sheen's appearance.
"Charlie Sheen isn't going anywhere soon. There is always hope he may regain his senses and become the high-profile cure advocate we need," King said. "But what we are currently witnessing is the exploitation of a deeply troubled man with multiple addictions."
"Charlie, please leave the search for a cure to the selfless advocates that actually care about this goal," Staley concluded. "Crawl back into your 'babe cave,' write a big check to amfAR and call it a day. Real AIDS advocates are the reason you're still alive, so stop sh*tting on our legacy and continued work."