HIV-positive actor Charlie Sheen 'paid millions in blackmail and extortion'
Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen today 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.
Sheen was once the highest paid actor on American television for his show Two And A Half Men and 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 10 million US dollars (£6.6 million) in the "shakedowns", and 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 Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Wall Street. 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 a series of angry and rambling interviews and public appearances in which he declared he possessed "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA" and described his own behaviour as "winning".
He told Lauer that he wished he could blame that episode on his illness but admitted it did come on the back of being diagnosed.
Sheen, who is the son of West Wing actor Martin 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.
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 retro-viral 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."
He admitted he had had unprotected sex since he was diagnosed, saying: "Yes, but the two people I have done that with were under the care of doctor and completely warned ahead of time."
Sheen said he was now expecting lawsuits from sexual partners as a result of his revelation.
"I would be predicting the future and assuming the worst. I can only imagine, based on what I've already experienced and been forced to deal with, I'm sure that is next."
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't sit here and protect against all of that. I can only sit here with you and tell my truth."
He was first diagnosed after suffering from 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."
Sheen's physician, Dr Robert Huizenga, from UCLA, told Lauer the actor now has an undetectable level of the virus in his blood and does not have Aids.
Sheen has been married three times and has five children.
His first marriage was to Donna Peele and his second to former Bond girl Denise Richards.
Richards and Sheen have two daughters together, Sam and Lola. The couple finalised their divorce in November 2006.
In 2008, Sheen wed for a third time, to Brooke Mueller, with whom he has twin sons, Bob and Max.
Sheen told Lauer both Richards and Mueller have known about his diagnosis for some time and he recently told his oldest daughter Cassandra, his child with a high school girlfriend.
He said he does not intend to become the "posterman" for HIV but added: "I'm not going to shun anyway from responsibilities and opportunities that drive me to helping others."