Actor Charlie Sheen is publicly acknowledging that he has been HIV-positive for four years.
Sheen told Matt Lauer during a live interview Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show that he is revealing his condition in order to end extortion threats that have cost him millions of dollars.
The "Two and a Half Men" star said he was given the HIV diagnosis four years ago when he entered the hospital concerned about migraines and night sweats. "I thought I had a brain tumor," he said.
Nervous and stuttering throughout the interview, held live in the "Today" studio, Sheen said, "It's a hard three letters to absorb. It's a turning point of one's life."
Sheen confided his condition to several people in his inner circle, some of whom demanded payment to remain silent.
"We're talking about shakedowns," he said.
He confirmed a story of a prostitute who took a cellphone picture of his anti-retroviral medications and threatened to sell it to the tabloids.
Sheen said he is no longer going to pay the extortion demands.
"I release myself from this prison today," he said.
Sheen said it was "impossible" for him to have transmitted the virus to a partner even though he has had unprotected sex.
Sheen's physician, Dr. Robert Huizenga, appeared on "Today" and said the drugs have suppressed the virus. He said Sheen has an "undetectable level" of the virus in his blood.
"He does not have AIDS," Huizenga declared.
The doctor said he is more concerned about depression and substance abuse related to Sheen's response to learning he has HIV.
Sheen said he was not "entirely sure" how he had contracted the virus.
Sheen, 50, is a Hollywood star whose resume includes such hits as "Wall Street" and "Platoon." But his best-known role is as the lothario on the long-running situation comedy "Two and a Half Men," which for years made him the highest paid star on television.
Sheen left the series in 2011 after a dispute with the show's creator, Chuck Lorre, and for a short time became a media folk hero who celebrated a debauched lifestyle. He told Lauer he did not connect his public meltdown to learning of his diagnosis.
Sheen's last TV series, "Anger Management," was canceled in 2014. He said he plans to work again and has made his HIV-positive condition known to the studios and producers whom he has discussed working with.
"I have a couple of films lined up that I can put start dates on," he said. "Thus far there has been no resistance."
Both of Sheen's ex-wives, Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller, have also been aware of his diagnosis for some time, the actor said.