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Charlie Sheen admitted he is HIV positive during an interview Tuesday with Matt Lauer on the Today show. Sheen said he was diagnosed with the disease four years ago, roughly the time he was experiencing a public meltdown (opens in new tab) and coining the term "winning." He also said two of his ex-wives—Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller—knew about his diagnosis.
Watch @CharlieSheen reveal his HIV Positive diagnosis to @MLauer:https://t.co/vDa9dJHldRNovember 17, 2015
Sheen said he had been paying people millions of dollars to keep the disease quiet, including a prostitute who he said took a picture of his HIV medication and threatened to leak it to the media. "We're talking about shakedowns," he said.
The payouts, which number in the tens of millions of dollars, are creating financial difficulties for Sheen, who was once the highest paid actor on television. One motivation in coming forward with his diagnosis was to end the payments, according to Sheen. "I think I've released myself from this prison today," he said.
"How many people have you paid?"“Enough to bring it into the millions” –@CharlieSheen tells @MLauerhttps://t.co/0sJV5nAGsRNovember 17, 2015
He also admitted to having unprotected sex with at least two people who, he claimed, were under the care of his doctor and warned ahead of time. He also said he told all of his sexual partners about his diagnosis before having sex. "No exceptions," he said.
Has @CharlieSheen knowingly or unknowingly transmitted virus since diagnosis?“Impossible”https://t.co/XTC2zvqcBDNovember 17, 2015
Dr. Robert Huizenga, Sheen's doctor who appeared on the Today show with him, said the actor was put on treatment immediately, suppressing the virus. As a result, he has an undetected level of HIV in his blood, according to Dr. Huizenga.
When asked whether Sheen can transmit the disease through sex, Dr. Huizenga said it's "incredibly rare." The Centers for Disease Control says (opens in new tab) people can still contract the disease when having sex with someone who has "an undetectable viral load," although the risk is greatly reduced.
About 1.2 million people in the U.S. were living with HIV at the end 2012, the most recent year statistics available, according to the CDC. Nearly 13 percent don't know they're infected.
Sheen said he was diagnosed after experiencing symptoms including headaches and night sweats. "I thought I had a brain tumor; I thought it was over," he said. "It's a hard three letters to absorb. It's a turning point in one's life."
Dr. Huizenga stressed that Sheen doesn't have AIDS, which is the final stage of HIV. His biggest concern for Sheen, he added, is the actor's substance abuse and depression. Sheen said he doesn't do drugs anymore, but still drinks.
The 50-year-old actor has a history of turmoil in both his personal and professional life. In 2011, CBS dropped Sheen from his starring role in CBS's Two and a Half Men, citing—in an 11-page letter sent to his attorney (opens in new tab)—Sheen's increasingly erratic and dangerous behavior following the actor's weeks long bender. "Your client has been engaged in dangerously self-destructive behavior and appears to be very ill," the letter said.
More recently, FX said in late 2014 it would not renew his most recent show (opens in new tab), Anger Management.
His personal life has also been tumultuous. He has a long history of alleged abuse towards women (opens in new tab), including against ex-wife Denise Richards, who accused him of throwing chairs at her and threatening to kill her on multiple occasions. In 2014, Sheen's eight-month relationship with adult film star Brett Rossi came to an end, according to USA Today (opens in new tab).
Sheen is the son of actor Martin Sheen and the brother of Emilio Estevez.
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