BLACK VOICES
11/30/2015 04:42 pm ET

How Charlie Sheen Helped Reignite This AIDS Activist's Passion

Sheryl Lee Ralph outlines her plans for World AIDS Day and the year ahead.
Getty/NBC

For decades, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph of Broadway's "Dreamgirls" and TV's "Moesha" and "Ray Donovan" has worked tirelessly as an activist for HIV/AIDS research through her nonprofit, Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware (D.I.V.A.) Foundation.

Now, 25 years after the launch of her foundation, Ralph told The Huffington Post that she's felt a renewed sense of purpose in raising awareness for HIV/AIDS thanks, in part, to Charlie Sheen's revelation that he was HIV-positive on the “Today” show. Ralph noted that she hopes Sheen's public admission will help the black community pay better attention to the disease.

“No matter how you may feel about Charlie Sheen, I say, ‘Thank God for Charlie Sheen’ cause he came out with his own reality no matter what you might feel about his reality, but I never had so many people wanting to talk about HIV in years, and I mean in years,” she said. “I would love to be able to get more access on black radio to talk about HIV and testing, but you try to reach out to some folks and their shows and they don’t wanna talk about it.”

To commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, the actress has partnered with OraQuick in-home HIV testing to distribute 10,000 test kits across the South and to some historically black colleges and university campuses.

“My goal for this next year is to get people to understand that testing is powerful,” she said. “Testing saves your life, and ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance can cost you your life. STDs are on the rise and the best way you can commemorate World AIDS Day is to get tested, especially if you're a sexually active person or thinking about being a sexually active person. Get tested. Know your status.”

For more info on World AIDS Day, including HIV testing sites and other service locations, click here.

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