Seven months after announcing his HIV diagnosis, the actor is on a mission to get people talking about condoms.
Credit: Getty Images

Charlie Sheen is speaking out again about his HIV diagnosis, and how it has led him to take on a new kind of role, as advocate. In an interview with People this week, he talked about his desire to use his fame to raise awareness about sexual health.

“I guess certain things happen for a reason,” he said. “And maybe all the stuff that I’ve done professionally, to garner such attention and fanfare and whatever else—good or bad—was sort of leading to a greater calling, a deeper calling, rather than fiction.”

Sheen, 50, told People that he has decided to partner with a condom brand called LELO HEX precisely because contraceptives are a subject people don’t like to talk about: “I figured: If I’m involved, maybe they’ll talk about it.”

Safe sex can use all the publicity it can get. Despite major advances in HIV treatment, the number of people in the United States who are infected with the virus each year—about 50,000—is surprisingly high, and has remained fairly stable for the last decade. But a 2012 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 44% of young adults aren’t personally concerned about HIV, and another 28% aren’t “too concerned.”

What’s more, 1 in 8 people who have HIV don’t realize it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And as Larry Corey, MD, a principal investigator for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, pointed out in a previous interview with Health, if people don’t know they have the virus, they can transmit it to others.

“You spend five seconds putting [a condom] on, and you prevent a lifetime of stress, potentially,” Sheen said in the People interview.

As for the actor’s own health, he is currently enrolled in an FDA-approved clinical trial of a new drug called PRO 140, a weekly injection he calls a “game changer” compared to traditional antiretroviral therapy: “You’re not saddled with the reminder every day: [When] you’ve gotta take your pills, you’re reminded; there’s a whole psychological aspect to that,” he said.

Sheen added that he’s excited about being a part of something “I think is going to help a lot of people.”