US actor Charlie Sheen, as well known for his on-screen work as his off-screen debauchery with drugs, booze and prostitutes, revealed Tuesday he is HIV-positive – and paid millions of dollars in hush money.
“I am here to admit that I am in fact HIV-positive,” the 50-year-old Sheen said on the NBC morning talk show, “TODAY”.
“It’s a hard three letters to absorb, you know?,” he said. “It’s a turning point in one’s life.”
Sheen, whose stint as a middle-aged womanising bachelor on the sitcom “Two and a Half Men” made him America’s highest paid TV actor, said he has known of his condition for about 4 years but does not know how he contracted the virus. He said he has paid “upwards of $10 million” to people who knew about his infection to keep them quiet and that he is coming clean to escape those “shakedowns”.
“What people forget is that it’s money taken from my children,” he said about the extortion.
Sheen has been married 3 times and has 5 children.
Asked if he is still paying such money, he said “Not after today, I am not. I think I released myself from this prison today.”
Most recently known for the TV series “Anger Management,” Sheen had prominent film roles in the 1980s, particularly in Vietnam war movie “Platoon“ and “Wall Street” with Michael Douglas.
Sheen said that when he first started feeling sick, with terrible migraines and sweating so much at night it drenched his bed, it was so bad he thought he had a brain tumor and was close to death.
After undergoing tests – “spinal taps, all that crap” – doctors gave him the diagnosis that he had the virus that causes AIDS.
Over the years, Sheen has acknowledged widespread drug and alcohol use as well as a penchant for hiring prostitutes.
Sheen, son of the actor Martin Sheen, said that since getting his diagnosis he has told all of his sexual partners before having intercourse. He also said he was certain that he had not passed on the virus to any of his partners.
Sheen’s doctor Robert Huizenga – appearing in the same NBC interview – said Sheen is taking anti-viral medication, has responded well and now has an undetectable level of the virus in his body.
“My biggest concern with Charlie as a patient is substance abuse and depression from the disease more than what the HIV virus can do in terms of shortening his life, because it is not going to,” Huizenga said.
He insisted Sheen does not have full-blown AIDS.
On Twitter, #CharlieSheen was trending, with many people expressing shock or even disgust that he had paid $10 million to conceal his secret.
Words of sympathy came from actress Heather Locklear, who appeared with Sheen in the sitcom “Spin City”, which ran from 1996-2002.
“My heart hurts. Prayers for Charlie and his family,” Locklear wrote on Instagram, where she posted a picture of her and Sheen.
In 2011, Sheen was fired from “Two and a Half Men” after criticizing its producer in a stream of media outbursts, losing the estimated $2 million an episode he was making at the time.
The CBS show was subsequently canceled for the rest of that season. The sitcom later returned — with Sheen’s character killed off.
Sheen went on a months-long public meltdown in the wake of his dismissal, during which he gave a series of rambling television interviews in which he seemed to be under the effect of drugs or alcohol, saying bizarre things like that he had “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA.”
In several interviews, he seemed very cocky and referred to himself often someone who was “winning.”
By his own timeline given Tuesday, 2011 would be about the time Sheen learned of his HIV-positive diagnosis. In the interview with “Today,” he was not asked about any link between the diagnosis and his breakdown.
But in an open letter released after the interview, Sheen said that after he had started treatment and felt he was “kicking this disease’s ass”, out of anger, shame and disbelief he fell into a downward spiral.
He called it “a temporary yet abysmal descent into profound substance abuse and fathomless drinking. It was a suicide run.”
Sheen admitted Tuesday he is not taking recreational drugs any more but does drink “a little bit.”
He returned to television in 2012 with “Anger Management,” but its run on the FX network ended last year.
Sheen said that now that he has gone public and is free of blackmailers, “I accept this condition not as a curse or scourge, but rather as an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity to help others. A challenge to better myself.”