'I am HIV-positive and I have been blackmailed for millions', says Sheen
Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen yesterday confirmed he is HIV-positive and has paid millions of dollars to stop people revealing his diagnosis.
The Platoon actor (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 morning 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.
He said 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."
Asked how many people he had paid, Sheen said: "I don't want to guess wrong, but enough to bring it into the millions, and what people forget is that is money they are taking from my children."
Lauer said Sheen had told him off-camera that he had paid out upwards of $10m (€9.44m) in the "shakedowns", and asked the actor about his financial situation as a result.
"It's not great, it will be great again," he said. "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 was fired from Two And A Half Men in 2011 after a series of angry and rambling interviews and public appearances in which he declared he possessed "Adonis DNA".
Sheen has long struggled with substance abuse and spent time in rehab. He has also admitted to soliciting prostitutes and testified in the tax evasion trial of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss in 1995.
He 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 said.
He confirmed one prostitute photographed his retro-viral medications in his bathroom and threatened to sell the picture to the tabloids.
Sheen said he was now expecting lawsuits from sexual partners as a result of his revelation.
"I would be assuming the worst. I can only imagine, based on what I've already experienced," he said.
Asked by Lauer if he expected to face criminal charges because in 35 US states it is illegal to not disclose an HIV diagnosis to a sexual partner, Sheen said: "Having divulged it is the reason I'm in the mess I'm in, having all the shakedowns. I can only sit here with you and tell my truth."