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HIV actor 'paid millions in blackmail, extortion' UK WORLD &.

Byline: Laura Harding newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

HOLLYWOOD actor Charlie Sheen yesterday confirmed he is HIV-positive and that he has paid millions of dollars to stop people revealing his diagnosis.

The Platoon actor, 50, said he found out about his illness four years ago and has since been the victim of "blackmail and extortion".

In a live interview with Matt Lauer on American morning TV show Today, he said: "I am here to admit I am HIVpositive and I have to put a stop to the onslaught and barrage of attacks and sub-truths and harmful stories that are about threatening the health of so many others."

Sheen was once the highest paid actor on American television for his show Two And A Half Men and said he had been the subject of "shakedowns" to buy the silence of members of his inner circle.

In a letter to Lauer that the host read on air, Sheen said: "Sadly my truth soon became their treason as a deluge of blackmail and extortion took centre stage in this circus of deceit."

Asked how many people he had paid, Sheen said: "I don't want to guess wrong but enough to bring it into the millions, and what people forget is that is money they are taking from my children."

Lauer said Sheen had told him off-camera that he had paid out more than $10m (PS6.6m) in the "shakedowns".

Of his financial situation Sheen said: "It's not great, it will be great again. I'm a survivor, I've been up, I've been down. I've been rich, I've been poor, I've been unemployed. It's another chapter in my life."

Sheen rose to fame in films such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Wall Street. Two And A Half Men was once the most popular show on American television but he was fired from his role as a thrill-seeking bachelor in 2011 after a series of angry and rambling interviews and public appearances in which he declared he possessed "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA" and described his own behaviour as "winning".

He told Lauer he wished he could blame that episode on his illness but admitted it did come on the back of being diagnosed.

Sheen, the son of West Wing actor Martin Sheen, has long struggled with substance abuse and spent time in rehab. He has also admitted to soliciting prostitutes and testified in the tax evasion trial of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss in 1995.

Sheen told Lauer he associated with people who went on to blackmail him because he was so devastated by his illness.

"I was so depressed by the condition I was in, I was doing a lot of drugs, I was drinking way too much and making really bad decisions."

He confirmed one prostitute photographed his medications and threatened to sell the picture to the tabloids. Sheen told Lauer he is no longer taking drugs but still drinks "a bit".

Asked if he had knowingly or unknowingly transmitted HIV to any of his sexual partners, Sheen said: "Impossible."

He said he had had unprotected sex since he was diagnosed, saying: "Yes, but the two people I have done that with were under the care of doctors and completely warned ahead of time."

Sheen said he was now expecting lawsuits from sexual partners as a result of his revelation.

"I can only imagine, based on what I've already experienced and been forced to deal with, I'm sure that is next."

Asked by Lauer if he expected to face criminal charges because in 35 US states it is illegal to not disclose an HIV diagnosis to a sexual partner, Sheen said: "Having divulged it is the reason I'm in the mess I'm in, having all the shakedowns. I can't sit here and protect against all of that."

Sheen's physician, Dr Robert Huizenga, told Lauer the actor now has an undetectable level of the virus in his blood and does not have Aids.

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Actor Charlie Sheen answers questions on NBC's "Today" in New York Peter Kramer
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 18, 2015
Words:673
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