“I’m here to admit that I’m in fact HIV positive” were some of the first words Charlie Sheen spoke on the Today Show this morning, but the actor made it very clear that he was not there on his own terms.
After various publications ran blind, item-style stories about a celebrity with HIV who shared a lot of similarities with Sheen, the 50-year-old actor made it explicit to the audience when he told host Matt Lauer that:
"I have to stop this onslaught of attacks and sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories about the threatening the health of so many others which couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Sheen revealed that a series of painful cluster headaches led to his diagnosis four years ago and that being found HIV positive was one of the most trying times of his life, he explained:
"I thought I had a brain tumor, thought it was over. After a battery of tests, they said what’s going on. It’s a hard three letters to absorb; it's a turning point in one’s life."
The 50-year-old actor also candidly admitted to being the victim of betrayal and extortion from the people closest to him who knew he had the virus because he was worried the stigma of being a person with HIV could destroy his career, he told Lauer that:
"I have paid those people. Not that many, but enough. I don’t want to guess wrong, but enough to bring into the millions. What people forget: that’s money they’re taking from my children; I’ve got five kids and a granddaughter.”
Sheen then went on to use his time on screen to correct some of the malicious rumors about his sexual behavior and HIV status putting his past partners at risk. The former Two and a Half Men actor insisted that any sort of sexual contact was "always led with condoms and truths" and denied having sexual relations with people who were unaware of his HIV status.
Sheen declared that it was "impossible" that he had transmitted HIV to any sexual partner and that the only times he had unprotected sex after his diagnosis had been with two people who he said were:
"Under the care of my doctor and completely warned ahead of time."
Thanks to advances in antiretroviral therapy, it can be safe for someone with HIV to have unprotected sex with a long-term partner. In fact, when asked about the risks in transmission, NAM researcher Alison Roger said the chance of contracting HIV from someone with an undetectable viral load was "zero."
Although Sheen was clearly not entirely ready to let the world know about his HIV status, he ended the interview by explaining how he now feels he has a responsibility to help end the stigma toward individuals living with HIV:
"I have a responsibility now to better myself and to help a lot of other people and hopefully with what we're doing today, others may come forward and say thanks Charlie, thanks for kicking the door open."
You can watch the whole interview for yourself in the video below: