HOLLYWOOD actor Charlie Sheen has confirmed he has HIV – and said that he has paid millions of dollars to stop people revealing his diagnosis.
Sheen, 50, said he found out about his illness four years ago and has since been the victim of “blackmail and extortion”.
In a live interview with Matt Lauer on American TV show Today, he said: “I am here to admit I am HIV positive and I have to put a stop to the onslaught and barrage of attacks and sub-truths and harmful stories that are about threatening the health of so many others.”
There had been widespread speculation about Sheen’s health in the media in the days before the interview.
Sheen was once the highest paid actor on American TV for his show Two And A Half Men and said in the interview that he had been the subject of “shakedowns” to buy the silence of members of his inner circle.
In a letter to Lauer that the host read on air, Sheen said: “Sadly my truth soon became their treason as a deluge of blackmail and extortion took centre stage in this circus of deceit.”
Lauer said Sheen had told him off-camera he had paid out upwards of $10 million (about £6.6m) in the “shakedowns”. Lauer asked the actor about his financial situation as a result.
Sheen replied: “It’s not great, it will be great again. I’m a survivor, I’ve been up, I’ve been down. I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor, I’ve been unemployed. It’s another chapter in my life.”
Sheen rose to fame in films such as Platoon, “Brat pack” western Young Guns and Hotshots!. Two And A Half Men was once the most popular show on American television, but he was fired from his role as a thrill-seeking bachelor in 2011 after he gave a series of angry and rambling interviews and made public appearances in which he declared he possessed “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA” and described his own behaviour as “winning”.
Sheen told Lauer that he wished he could blame that episode on his illness, saying that it came on the back of being diagnosed.
Sheen – who is the son of West Wing star Martin Sheen and the brother of actor Emilio Estevez – has long struggled with substance abuse and spent time in rehab. He has also admitted to soliciting prostitutes.
Sheen told Lauer he associated with people who went on to blackmail him because he was so devastated by his illness.
“I was so depressed by the condition I was in, I was doing a lot of drugs, I was drinking way too much and making really bad decisions.”
He confirmed one prostitute photographed his retroviral medications in his bathroom and threatened to sell the picture to the tabloids. Sheen told Lauer he is no longer taking drugs but still drinks “a bit”.
Asked if he had knowingly or unknowingly transmitted HIV to any of his sexual partners, Sheen said: “Impossible”, though he said he was expecting lawsuits from sexual partners as a result of his revelation.
He said he was first diagnosed after suffering headaches and migraines, and sweating in bed. He said: “I had to be hospitalised, I thought I had a brain tumour, I thought it was over.”
He added: “It’s a hard three letters to absorb.”