Hollywood star Charlie Sheen has confirmed he is living with HIV in a US television interview.
“I am here to admit that I am HIV positive,” he said.
The former star of sitcom Two And A Half Men appeared on NBC’s Today show, ending days of intense media speculation.
Sheen revealed to Matt Lauer he had paid “enough to take it into the millions” to keep people from going public about his illness. “I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths,” he said, adding he was diagnosed four years ago.
He said when he revealed his HIV status to friends “the truth became treason”, leading to “blackmail and extortion and a circle of deceit”.
“I trusted them, they were in my inner circle and thought they could be helpful. My trust turned to their treason,” he said, adding a prostitute took a picture of his medication and threatened to sell it to newspapers. “I think I release myself from this prison today,” he said.
He admitted that his use of drink and drugs was a “bad decision” but said it was “impossible” that he would have passed HIV on to anyone else. The actor said he does not know how he contracted the virus but stressed he does not feel any stigma attached to the illness.
Speaking about the time prior to his diagnosis, he said: “It started with a series of cluster headaches and sweating – I was hospitalized. I thought I had a brain tumour – after tests they said this was the situation. It’s a hard three letters to absorb.”
Sheen appeared with his doctor, Robert Huizenga, who said his daily medication has suppressed the virus and he is “absolutely healthy”.
“Charlie has an undetectable level of the virus in his blood,” he said.
When asked to respond to rumours Sheen has Aids, Dr Huizenga said: “Charlie does not have Aids – that’s when the virus suppresses the immune system. He is healthy.”
‘Shame and anger’
Sheen said he is taking prescribed drugs daily and despite his erratic tendencies, has never missed a day’s medication. He said he is no longer taking recreational drugs but admitted he still “drinks a bit”.
Dr Huizenga said he did have concerns Sheen might omit to take his medication.
“We’re petrified about him, we’re so, so anxious that if he was overly depressed or abusing substances he’d forget to take a pill, but he’s managed to take his medication,” he said.
When asked if he would stop drinking, Sheen responded by saying: “Perhaps the freedom of today might lead to that as well.”
Sheen said his “personal disbelief and shame and anger” at the initial diagnosis “led to a descent into substance abuse and fathomless drinking”. But now he feels he has “the responsibility to better myself and help a lot of other people. With what we’re doing today, others may come up and say, ‘Thanks Charlie, thanks for kicking the door open’.”
He said he hoped the media pressure would ease now.
“You can never predict how the media will roll with something,” he said. “I hope it’s a lot more forgiving and supportive than a lot of the garbage I’ve read over the past few days – that I knew I had Aids and was intentionally spreading it.
“It’s as far from the truth as can be.”