LOS ANGELES — Hollywood party-boy Charlie Sheen said in a national television interview Nov. 17 that he is HIV-positive and that he decided to make it public to put an end to a campaign of extortion.
The former “Two and a Half Men” star made the revelation on a “Today” interview with Matt Lauer, saying he was also doing it to stop a smear campaign.
“It’s a hard three letters to absorb. It’s a turning point in one’s life,” the 50-year-old actor said.
“I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that are about me, that threaten the health of so many others that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.
Sheen said he was diagnosed roughly four years ago but doesn’t know how he became exposed to the virus that causes AIDS.
“It started with what I thought was a series of crushing headaches,” he said. “I thought I had a brain tumor. I thought it was over.”
Sheen said he’s trusted the diagnosis with people he thought he trusted, but some people have extorted “millions” from him to keep the illness a secret.
He indicated that the people who he believes have betrayed him were once close to him.
“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.”
But Sheen said appearing on “Today” would help put a stop to the payouts he has been forced to make.
“That’s my goal,” he said, adding he is releasing himself from a prison.
Sheen, known for his hard-partying ways and dalliances with porn stars and prostitutes, was famously bounced from the cast of “Two and a Half Men” in 2011 following a bout with drugs and alcohol that led to a suspension of filming and a series of angry verbal attacks on show creator Chuck Lorre.
The National Enquirer announced earlier that it would publish a story Nov. 18 reporting that Sheen is HIV-positive and “how television’s one-time highest-paid star potentially spread the devastating virus to dozens of unsuspecting women.”
Although Sheen’s public admission was aimed at halting extortion attempts, it could also lead to lawsuits from former sex partners. One of them, former porn actress Bree Olson, said that despite Sheen’s claim that he told sex partners about his condition, she was never informed.
“Never said anything. Ever,” Olson said on the Howard Stern radio show Nov. 17.
She said Sheen repeatedly told her he was “clean.” She also said she has been tested and is not HIV-positive.
Chris Brown, director of health and mental health services for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said Sheen’s announcement shows that despite the advancements made in HIV treatment, the virus still carries a stigma, because people’s perceptions haven’t changed.
“So it’s no surprise, yet still very sad, to learn that even someone as privileged as Charlie Sheen felt the need to hide his status for years,” Brown said. “To help reduce stigma, we need to talk about HIV and we need to get educated, but as a society, we don’t do that very much. Here at the center, we continue to hear horror stories from HIV-positive clients who face rejection and shaming from people who learn their status.
“Much of the reaction and media reports before and after Sheen’s announcement reveal how much people still have to learn about HIV,” Brown said.