NEW YORK -- Former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen says he has contracted HIV.
In an interview Tuesday on NBC's "Today," the 50-year-old Sheen said he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.
"I am in fact HIV positive. I have to put a stop this onslaught, this barrage of attacks of some truths that are very harmful about me, threatening the health of so many others, that could not be further from the truth," he said.
Sheen said he has known for "roughly four years." He said it "started as headaches, migraines, sweating in bed. I was emergency hospitalized. I though I had a brain tumor."
Sheen said Tuesday that because of his diagnosis, he was the victim of "shakedowns." A prostitute took a picture of HIV medication in his bathroom and threatened to sell the picture, he said.
Tuesday's revelation will end those payments, he said. "I release myself from this prison today."
Drug and alcohol use have marred Sheen's personal and professional life in recent years. He was kicked off CBS' "Two and a Half Men" in 2011 after an explosive meltdown that included calling the show's producer "a contaminated little maggot."
His escapades also have included the revelation that he spent more than $50,000 as a client of "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss' prostitution ring.
Sheen said he has not transmitted HIV to anyone else, calling that "impossible." He said he has not engaged in risky behavior and still doesn't know how he contracted the virus.
"Two and a Half Men" debuted in 2003 and starred Sheen as womanizing bachelor Charlie Harper. It made Sheen one of TV's highest-paid actors and at its peak was TV's most-watched sitcom.
A spokesman for Sheen's ex-wife Brooke Mueller released a statement on Tuesday: "Brooke has been inundated with calls from friends and family. To put their minds at ease, Brooke can confirm that she and the boys are not HIV positive."
Also on Tuesday, Sheen's publicist, Larry Solters, released a statement:
An Open Letter from Charlie Sheen and Statement from his Physician
Roughly four years ago, I suddenly found myself in the throws of a seismic and debilitating three-day cluster-migraine like headache. I was emergently hospitalized with what I believed to be a brain tumor or perhaps some unknown pathology. I was partially correct. Following a battery of endless tests, that included a hideous spinal tap, it was sadly and shockingly revealed to me that I was, in fact, positive for HIV.
The news was a 'mule kick' to my soul. Those impossible words I absorbed and then tried to convince myself, that I was stuck, suspended, or even stranded inside some kind of alternate reality or nightmare, were to the absolute contrary. I was awake. It was true... reality.
Under the brilliant and perfect care of Dr. Robert Huizenga as well as "the" leading infectious disease expert in the known universe, I began a rigorous and intensive treatment program. Not missing a beat, a med dose, or one shred of guidance, quickly my viral loads became undetectable. Like every other challenge in my life, again, I was victorious and kicking this disease's ass. I wish my story had ended there. Unfortunately, for my family and myself, it had only just begun.
The personal disbelief, karmic confusion, shame and anger lead to a temporary yet abysmal decent into profound substance abuse and fathomless drinking. It was a suicide run. Problem was, I'd forgotten that I'm too tough for such a cowardly departure. Yet, despite this loathsome and horrific odyssey, I was vigilant with my anti-viral program.
My medical team could only shake their heads as each and every blood test returned levels revealing a state of remission. Even though I might have been trying to kill myself, one thing was radically evident; the disease was not.
In and around this perplexing and difficult time, I dazedly chose (or hired) the companionship of unsavory and insipid types. Regardless of their salt-less reputations, I always lead with condoms and honesty when it came to my condition. Sadly, my truth soon became their treason, as a deluge of blackmail and extortion took center stage in this circus of deceit.
To date, I have paid out countless millions to these desperate charlatans.
Locked in a vacuum of fear, I chose to allow their threats and skullduggery to vastly deplete future assets from my children, while my "secret" sat entombed in their hives of folly. (or so I thought)
News Flash: This ends today. I'm claiming back my freedom. The scales of justice will swiftly and righteously rebalance themselves.
In conclusion, I accept this condition not as a curse or scourge, but rather as an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity to help others. A challenge to better myself.
Every day, of every month, of every year, countless individuals go to work, man their stations, fulfill their professional obligations with a host of disabilities. Diseases, imperfections, hurdles, detours. These maladies range from Lupus to Cancer, from paralysis to blindness, from Diabetes to Obesity. "Treated," HIV is no different.
My partying days are behind me. My philanthropic days are ahead of me.
Earnest Hemingway once wrote:
"Courage is grace under pressure."
I've served my time under pressure; I now embrace the courage, and the grace.
Love and Peace,