Researchers at San Diego State University have published a study showing Sheen’s TV appearance sparked an uptick with rates of people getting at-home HIV tests – reaching a record high. Pictured: last month
Charlie Sheen saved lives by revealing that he is HIV positive, a study claims.
On November 17, 2015, the actor publicly disclosed his HIV status on NBC’s Today Show.
Last year, researchers at San Diego State University published a study showing Sheen’s TV appearance sparked millions of online searches for HIV prevention and testing.
Now, they have taken that research a step further, showing there was also an uptick with rates of people getting at-home rapid HIV tests – reaching a record high.
The team collected data on weekly sales of OraQuick, the only rapid in-home HIV test kit available in the United States, to investigate whether Internet queries (based on Google Trends data on searches with ‘test,’ ‘tests,’ or ‘testing’ and ‘HIV’) could be correlated with any uptick in HIV testing.
‘Our strategy allowed us to provide a real-world estimation of the “Charlie Sheen effect” on HIV prevention and contrast that effect with our past formative assessment using Internet searches,’ said study coauthor Eric Leas.
The week of Sheen’s disclosure coincided with a near doubling in OraQuick sales, which reached an all-time high. Sales remained significantly higher for the following three weeks, with 8,225 more sales than expected.
‘In absolute terms, it’s hard to appreciate the magnitude of Sheen’s disclosure,’ added study coauthor Benjamin Althouse, research scientist with the Institute of Disease Modeling.
‘However, when we compared Sheen’s disclosure to other traditional awareness campaigns the “Charlie Sheen effect” is astonishing.’
OraQuick sales in the time period around Sheen’s disclosure were nearly eight times greater than sales around World Aids Day, one of the most well-known and longest-running HIV prevention awareness events.
The week of Sheen’s disclosure coincided with a near doubling in OraQuick sales, which reached an all-time high. Sales remained significantly higher for the following three weeks, with 8,225 more sales than expected. Pictured: the chart from the study of OraQuick sales
The team’s most significant takeaway, however, is that these findings reinforce their past analyses of Google search data.
Using Internet searches alone the team was able to predict HIV testing sales within seven percent for any given weeks.
‘Public health leaders are often cautious, choosing to wait for traditional data instead of taking reasonable action in response to novel data, like Internet searches,’ Ayers said.
‘Our findings underscore the value of big media data for yielding rapid intelligence to make public health actionable and more responsive to the public it serves.’
Study coauthor Mark Dredze, a Johns Hopkins University computer scientist, added that ‘public health must ready itself for the next Sheen-like event by embracing big media data for decision making.’ said.
Still, it may be the window has not fully closed on the Charlie Sheen effect, he said.
‘Our findings build on earlier studies that suggest empathy is easier to motivate others when the empathy is targeted toward an individual versus a group’ said coauthor Jon-Patrick Allem, research scientist with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.
‘It is easy to imagine that a single individual, like Sheen, disclosing his HIV status may be more compelling and motivating for people than an unnamed mass of individuals or a lecture from public health leaders.’
Since his diagnosis, Sheen has been vocal about treatment options and side effects.
At first, the star started on anti-retroviral therapy, the standard treatment for HIV.
But in early 2016, months after his public announcement, he joined a Phase III clinical trial for an experimental weekly injection called PRO-140.
From day one he has gushed about its effects. On numerous occasions, he has told Daily Mail Online that he felt an emotional and physical transformation when he switched from ‘that cocktail of drugs’ to his weekly treatment.
And earlier this month he addressed why he was motivated to try an unapproved treatment – revealing his old HIV medication left him with ‘borderline dementia’.
Speaking to Daily Mail Online, Sheen said he did not have symptoms of dementia until he started taking his first regime of drugs to suppress his HIV.
But those symptoms disappeared after he joined the PRO-140 trial.
His words came as the drug, which ended its successful phase III clinical trial early this year, is now being assessed for FDA approval.
Sheen told the Mail he ‘is feeling fantastic now!’
EXPLAINED: THE ANTI-HIV DRUG CHARLIE SHEEN IS TAKING
PRO-140 is an ‘entry and fusion inhibitor’ that is injected weekly.
It is made from an antibody, rather than synthetic chemicals.
Entry and fusion inhibitors protect cells in the immune system from HIV infection.
To do so, the drug attaches to a protein receptor on the surface of the immune cell.
Normally, HIV would use that protein as a gateway to enter and infect a cell.
Studies show that when this gateway is blocked, HIV has no other way of entering that cell.
If possible, this process would block the virus from multiplying. It could also reduce that amount of HIV in the body.
Charlie Sheen will reach Week 18 of his test group on Tuesday. It is a Phase III trial – the last batch to try it before it can be released.
There are a couple of months left before the results will be studied by the FDA to see if it can be publicly released.
CytoDyn Inc, the firm behind the pill, is eyeing up an early 2017 release.