WASHINGTON - US actor Charlie Sheen, as well known for his on-screen work as his off-screen debauchery with drugs, alcohol and prostitutes, revealed Tuesday that he is HIV-positive - and was blackmailed millions to keep his condition secret.
"I am here to admit that I am in fact HIV-positive," the 50-year-old Sheen said on the NBC morning talk show "Today."
Sheen, said to have been America's highest paid TV actor at one point, said that he has known of his condition for about four years but does not know how he contracted the virus.
"It's a hard three letters to absorb, you know? "It's a turning point in one's life," he said.
He said he has paid "upwards of US$10 million (S$14.2 million)" to people who knew about his condition to keep them quiet and that he is coming clean to stop those "shakedowns." "What people forget is that it's money taken from my children," he said about the extortion. Sheen has been married three times and has five children.
Asked if he is still paying such money, he said "Not after today, I am not. I think I released myself from this prison today."
Most recently known for the TV series "Anger Management" and "Two and a Half Men," Sheen is also known for his lead roles in the Vietnam war movie "Platoon" and "Wall Street" with Michael Douglas.
Sheen said that when he first started feeling sick, with terrible migraines and sweating so much at night it drenched his bed, it was so bad he thought he had a brain tumour and was close to death.
After undergoing tests - "spinal taps, all that crap" - doctors gave him the diagnosis that he had the virus that causes AIDS.
Sheen, son of the actor Martin Sheen, said that since getting his diagnosis he has told all of his sexual partners of it before having intercourse.
He also said he was certain that he had not passed on the virus to any of his partners.
Sheen has acknowledged widespread drug and alcohol use and a penchant for hiring prostitutes.
In 2011, he had a public meltdown and "Two and Half Men" was shut down. He came back with "Anger Management" but that has since been cancelled.