Actor Charlie Sheen has admitted to being HIV positive in an interview with Matt Lauer on THE Today Show early this morning. He explained the decision as one motivated by a desire to dispel rumors that he has threatened the health of others and to put an end to what Sheen has described as blackmail threats over his condition.
Sheen was diagnosed with HIV in 2011 when, following periods of night sweats and cluster headaches, he thought he had a brain tumor. He did have a small circle that knew of his diagnoses, but admits to succumbing to blackmail and extortion threats by those he once trusted. Sheen was reluctant to name the exact number of such occurrences, but estimates the total payout money to be in the millions. He did clarify that most of the extortions were by people he had either told in confidence or those who had later learned. Sheen described to Lauer a particular incident where a prostitute had taken pictures of his antiretrovirals and threatened to sell the photo to the media. Airing all of this in public and breaking the hold of his blackmailers was akin to being released from prison, according to Sheen.
In response to a question about whether he could have knowingly or unknowingly infected others, Sheen replied with a defiant, “impossible”. He admits to two instances of unprotected sex after his diagnoses, but maintains that the women were informed beforehand and did not contract HIV from the encounter. All other times, Sheen asserts that he used protection and informed the women beforehand without exception. When asked about how he contracted the disease, Sheen confessed that he didn’t know exactly how or when it happened but is certain that it was not from sharing needles.
Although the diagnoses happened around the time of Sheen’s infamous “warlock” and “tiger blood” meltdown in 2011, he admitted that the incident was more due to what he described as “‘roid rage” rather than a response to his then-new diagnoses. Sheen is aware that fear of the stigma associated with HIV is a reason why some people do not get tested or talk to their doctors. He hopes that his coming out, among other things, helps clear some of the fears away.
HIV is no longer a death sentence but still requires a lifetime of medication. Even patients with “undetectable” viral loads like Charlie Sheen can still be subject to viral buildups if they skip the necessary pills. HIV is overwhelmingly transmitted through sexual intercourse and while treatment can reduce transmission risk by up to 95%, it will never be zero. The Centers for Disease Control And Prevention estimates that only 30% of the 1.2 million Americans currently living with HIV have the disease under proper control. Around 50,000 new people are infected within the country every year.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Fox, M., “Charlie Sheen Has HIV, But His Chances Are Good,” NBC News web site, November 17, 2015; http://www.nbcnews.com/health/sexual-health/charlie-sheen-has-hiv-his-chances-are-good-n464561.
Sheen, C., “Charlie Sheen: ‘I’m HIV positive,’ paid many who threatened to expose me,” NBC news web site, November 17, 2015;