Charlie Sheen Claims He Divulged HIV Status to Partners; Was Blackmailed $10 Million
After days of speculation that reached a fever pitch yesterday, Charlie Sheen went on "The Today Show" to confirm rumors that he is HIV-positive. Sheen also confronted charges that he had knowingly spread the virus since learning of his status.
“I’m here to admit that I am, in fact, HIV-positive,” Sheen told "Today" host Matt Lauer at the top of the segment.
Sheen said he was diagnosed “roughly” four years ago. The actor stated that after experiencing crippling headaches and severe night sweats, he initially thought he had a brain tumor. Tests later revealed that he had contracted HIV.
“It’s a hard three letters to absorb,” Sheen told Lauer.
HIV, despite no longer being a death sentence, is still highly stigmatized. Sheen, fearing the impact of his diagnosis, says he only told a few close associates he assumed would keep his secret. The actor claims some of those friends—a group that included sexual partners—leaked his condition to the press, while others threatened to do so unless he paid them. He says he has spent nearly $10 million to keep his status from getting out to the public, but that those payments will cease following his announcement today.
Sheen was also asked directly, more than once, if he had disclosed his status to every sexual partner prior to any sexual contact, “without exception,” since his diagnosis.
“[I] always led with condoms and honesty when it came to my condition,” Sheen said.
The actor later said it was “impossible” he had infected any partners. He did admit to having unprotected sex since learning he had contracted the virus.
“But the two people that I did that with were under the care of my doctor and they were completely warned ahead of time.”
Sheen’s doctor, Robert Huizenga, joined him later in the segment, and told Lauer that the actor, who has been taking antiretrovirals for the last four years, has an undetectable level of the virus in his blood. Lauer revisited Sheen’s admission that he has had unprotected sex since his diagnosis and wondered aloud if he may have passed the virus on.
“Individuals who are optimally treated, who have undetectable viral loads, who responsibly use protection… it’s incredibly rare to transmit the virus,” said Huizenga. “We can’t say that that’s zero, but it’s a very, very low number.”
The CDC backs up this assertion, stating on its website that an undetectable HIV viral load “greatly lowers the chance that a person with HIV can transmit the virus to a partner." But the agency also notes that even when an individual has a low viral load, “there is still some risk.”
Bree Olson, Sheen’s former girlfriend, appeared on the Howard Stern Show today just after the announcement. Olson says Sheen was not forthcoming about his status when the two were together, and called his assertions to the contrary “bullshit.”
“He never said anything to me,” said Olson. “I was his girlfriend. I lived with him. We had sex almost every day for a year.”
She says that sometimes they didn’t use condoms and that when they did, Sheen insisted on lambskin. As the CDC has repeatedly pointed out in its public education campaigns, lambskin condoms are porous and not recommended for stopping the transmission of certain STDs, including HIV.
“[He] never said anything. Ever,” Olson later told Stern. "'I’m clean,' he told me. 'I’m clean, I’m clean.'"
During his interview with Lauer, Sheen acknowledged that there are people who contend he has lied or covered up his status. He was steadfast in his insistence that he has been completely transparent about his HIV status. Sheen said he was not certain how he contracted the virus, but brushed aside the suggestion he had ever used intravenous drugs. His announcement comes one day before the National Enquirer issue breaking the story hits newsstands.
The full "Today Show" interview, in three parts, is below.