After facing years of extortion by former friends, Charlie Sheen revealed that he is HIV-positive during an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today show Tuesday.
Sheen told the host he came forward with his condition this week hoping to put an end to “this onslaught, this barrage of attacks,” which he claims were launched against him after he confided in people he thought were friends, who later blackmailed him for money over the diagnosis.
Referencing “sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories” written that he was a health risk, Sheen said the idea he would knowingly and recklessly expose others to the disease “couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Sheen, 50, told Lauer he was diagnosed with the illness four years ago, but he doesn’t know exactly how he contracted it.
“I am here to admit that I am in fact HIV-positive,” he said. “It’s a hard three letters to absorb. It’s a turning point in one’s life.”
“It started with what I thought was a series of crushing headaches,” he said of contracting the virus. “I thought I had a brain tumor. I thought it was over.”
After undergoing numerous tests, he was told the condition was HIV.
“It’s a hard three letters to absorb; it’s a turning point in one’s life,” Sheen told Lauer.
When asked if he knowingly transmitted the virus to others, Sheen insisted that it is “impossible,” saying he’s only had unprotected sex with two people since his diagnosis, both of whom were warned ahead of time and under the care of his doctor.
Sheen admitted during the interview that he’s spent an upwards of $10 million to keep his illness a secret, after confiding in several friends he thought he could trust.
“For years you have been trying to keep this secret, and you have said that you have been the victim of betrayal, and extortion. You told me that a lot of people have actually demanded money to stay silent about this,” Lauer said to Sheen, who admitted he’s paid several people off for their silence.
“I trusted them, and they were deep in my inner circle, and I thought they could be helpful,” he said. “Instead…my trust turned to their treason.”
“What people forget is that it’s money taken from my children,” he added.
Charlie said he hoped the interview will put an end to all of the payouts and also dispel myths and stigmas about HIV.
“That’s my goal. That’s not my only goal. I think I release myself from this prison today,” Sheen said.
“I have a responsibility now to better myself and to help a lot of other people. And hopefully with what we’re doing today others will come forward and say, ‘Thanks, Charlie,’” he said.
On whether his infamous 2011 meltdown, in which he publicly exited his hit CBS show “Two and a Half Men” after a disagreement with its creator, was connected to his HIV diagnosis, Sheen said the two were unrelated.
“I wish I could blame it on that… That was more of a roid rage. This was on the heels of that,” he said. “There’s a lot out there I’m not proud of. You can only hear ‘winning’ in the streets so many times,” he said. “I’ve pissed off a lot of really good opportunities.”
“I’m approaching a time of more of a philanthropic approach in my life,” he said of going forward. “I’m a survivor. I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor… It’s another chapter in my life, but it’s not commerce driven. It’s socially driven.”
Sheen wrote in a letter published Tuesday that his hard-partying days have come to a close so that he can make way for a lifestyle more focused on others.
“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,” he said in a letter published by TheWrap.
“Every day, of every month, of every year, countless individuals go to work, man their stations, fulfill their professional obligations with a host of disabilities. Diseases, imperfections, hurdles, detours. These maladies range from Lupus to Cancer, from paralysis to blindness, from Diabetes to Obesity. ‘Treated,’ HIV is no different.”
“My philanthropic days are ahead of me,” Sheen said.