As expected, actor Charlie Sheen told Matt Lauer on Tuesday that he is HIV-positive and paid up to $10 million in hush money to keep the diagnosis a secret.
“I am, in fact, HIV-positive,” Sheen said during the Today-show interview. “It’s a hard three letters to absorb. It’s a turning point in one’s life.”
Sheen said that he was diagnosed four years ago and he’s not sure how he contracted the virus, although he’s certain it wasn’t from sharing needles. He said the discovery began with a series of really bad headaches—so bad that he thought it was a brain tumor.
“I thought it was over,” Sheen, 50, said.
It’s been a tumultuous time since the diagnosis, to say the least. Sheen described how prostitutes tried to extort money from him in order to keep the diagnosis a secret. One went so far as to take a photo of antiviral drugs in his cabinet and threatened to sell the photos to the media.
He said he’s paid “upwards of $10 million” to people like that, and he’s hoping that his revelation will end the extortion and “shakedowns.”
“That is money taken away from my kids,” Sheen said.
“Are you still paying some of these people?” Lauer asked, to which Sheen responded: “Not after today I’m not.”
Sheen does, however, expect some of his former sex partners to file lawsuits.
He said that he currently takes four antiviral pills a day and has an undetectable level of the virus in his blood. His doctor, Robert Huizenga, appeared during a portion of the interview and explained that that’s a great thing because it’s very hard to transmit the disease with an undetectable level of virus in the blood.
“Individuals who are optimally treated, who have undetectable viral loads, who responsibly use protection, have an incredibly low … it’s incredibly rare to transmit the virus,” Huizenga said. “We can’t say that that’s zero, but it’s a very, very low number.”
Sheen said that since the diagnosis, he’s always told his sexual partners about his HIV status. He does admit to not using a condom with at least two partners, but he says that both knew he had HIV.
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.