US actor Charlie Sheen said he is HIV-positive and has paid people millions of dollars to keep the diagnosis secret.
“It’s a hard three letters to absorb,” Sheen said in an interview with US broadcaster NBC on Tuesday.
“It’s a turning point in one’s life,” he added.
The 50-year-old actor said he was diagnosed with HIV around four years ago after suffering a series of headaches, intense migraines and sweating episodes at night, all of which led him to first suspect a brain tumour.
Sheen said doesn’t know how he contracted the illness.
Though he only told people he trusted about the diagnosis, the actor says some have extorted “millions” from him to keep the illness a secret.
“I trusted them and they were deep in my inner circle,” he said. “My trust turned to their treason.”
Sheen said his appearance on NBC’s Today Show, one of the most popular morning talkshows in the US, was meant to end the blackmail payments.
“I have to put a stop to … this barrage of attacks and sub-truths,” Sheen said. “I release myself from this prison today,” he added.
Sheen has made tabloid headlines over decades for his turbulent personal life, including a long struggle with substance abuse and multiple stints in rehab. A public meltdown in 2011 got him dropped from the hit television show Two and a Half Men.
The father of five has admitted soliciting prostitutes – in the 1995 trial of Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss, he testified to paying more than 50,000 dollars for sex – and has more recently been linked to a series of adult film actresses, including Brett Rossi, to whom he was briefly engaged in 2014.
Sheen came to fame with starring roles in the Oliver Stone films Platoon (1986) and Wall Street (1987), and appeared for eight years on Two and a Half Men. He is the son of actor Martin Sheen and the brother of actor Emilio Estevez.
More than 36 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, according to UNAIDS and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.