Alec Baldwin has spoken openly about living with Lyme disease only a couple of times. The first was in 2011 during an interview with the New York Times when he said he gets “really tired” at the same time every year.
Now, he's opened up even more during a speech at the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, just hours after doing a cold open for Saturday Night Live.
“I got the classic Lyme disease [symptoms] for each successive summer, for five years, every August, like this black lung, flu-like symptoms, sweating to death in my bed,” Baldwin said, according to People magazine. “The first round was the worst, and then it diminished, at least that’s how I perceived it.”
You might be surprised to know that people living with co-existing diseases like HIV and Lyme disease are more common than you think.
Named after Lyme, Conn., where the disease was first described, it is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If left treated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. It's also listed as the most common bacterial central nervous system infection in the temperate parts of the northern hemisphere, according to studies.
“The first time was the worst of all,” Baldwin continued. “And I really thought this is it, I’m not going to live. I was alone. I wasn’t married at the time. I was divorced from my first wife. I was lying in bed saying, ‘I’m going to die of Lyme disease,’ in my bed and ‘I hope someone finds me and I’m not here for too long.’ ”
One study, published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, researched four people living with both HIV and Lyme Disease living in Sweden — four men aged 60, 39, 62, and 50. Three out of four of them had low levels of T cells, but after being treated with oral doxycycline, ended up showing a good clinical outcome.
To date, only five cases of co-infection with HIV and Lime disease have been published, often masking the physical pain, mental confusion, and other drastic symptoms seriously misunderstood. Seeing as it impacts the central nervous system, those living with HIV need to always take extra precaution.
Writer David Michael Conner once wrote a three-part series for the Huffington Post, comparing the lack of understanding of Lyme disease today to that of HIV in the 1980s.
“I have Lyme disease — and have had it since I was first diagnosed in 1997 at age 18,” Conner wrote. “So all my adult life, it turns out, while I’ve been fearing HIV — as much because of stigma as because of the actual life effects — I’ve had another infectious disease that is much more mysterious to this day; in reality, Lyme today is as misunderstood and medically controversial as HIV was in the early 1980s.”
He continued in the series: “I am on an antibiotic regimen that is surprisingly similar to chemotherapy — and it affects me similarly — in addition to taking up to 30 additional supplements in pill and tincture form that are also used as complementary therapies for full-blown AIDS. You don’t want to live this way: Be wary of ticks, and be wary of any object that penetrates your body and transmits fluids, whether it comes in insect, needle, or human form.”
The CDC recommends steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. Baldwin applies these strategies, explaining that he and his wife Hilaria are always checking their children for signs of tick bites.
“I want my kids to grow up riding horses and bikes and enjoying themselves every day and not have to spend every day with us going over them with a magnifying glass to make sure they don’t have any ticks on their body or their dogs, but that is part of the lifestyle of where I live,” he said.