NEW YORK, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Troubled actor Charlie Sheen took back control of his life Tuesday, revealing he is HIV-positive and no longer giving in to extortionists who demand money in exchange for keeping his secret.
"I'm here to admit that I am, in fact, HIV-positive," Charlie Sheen said after thanking Today show interviewer Matt Lauer and his producing team for their time and compassion.
"I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories about threatening the health of so many others, which couldn't be farther from the truth," said the actor, who was well-dressed in a blue suit and appeared sober during the interview.
Sheen then explained he was diagnosed with the disease about four years ago and only told those he trusted about his condition.
"It's a hard three letters to absorb," he added. "It's a turning point in one's life."
Sheen said he decided to speak out now because he was tired of being blackmailed by several people who demanded cash in exchange for their silence. He did not specify how many people he has paid off, but did say he has spent millions of dollars trying to keep the secret.
"What people forget is that's money that they are taking from my children. They think it's just me, but I've got five children and a granddaughter," he said. "I think I release myself from this prison today."
The actor was adamant that he has not infected any of his sexual partners.
Sheen said he did not know how exactly he contracted the disease, but he emphasized he did not use needles when he abused drugs.
His doctor Robert Huizenga joined Sheen on the program, testifying the actor has been taking strong anti-viral drugs and has an undetectable level of the virus in his blood.
"Charlie does not have AIDS," the physician emphasized, shooting down gossip suggesting he does.
The actor insisted he has completely stopped abusing drugs, although he does still occasionally drink alcohol.
Sheen enjoyed early success on the big screen in films such as Lucas, Platoon, Wall Street, Young Guns, Eight Men Out, Major League, Hot Shots and The Three Musketeers. He later became a popular sitcom star in the shows Spin City, Two and a Half Men and Anger Management.
However, his once-bright career became eclipsed by reports of his erratic behavior, drug use and brushes with the law.
"She's known Charlie was HIV-positive for a number of years," a source told the magazine.
"He was infected after they divorced, and they haven't been intimate since," the insider said. "Neither she nor their daughters [Sam, 11, and Lola, 9] are HIV-positive."
Sheen confirmed in his interview that Richards and his third ex-wife Brooke Mueller both know about his diagnosis.
"My heart hurts. Prayers for Charlie and his family," Heather Locklear, Sheen's former co-star on Spin City, said in an Instagram post Monday after NBC announced it had booked Sheen for an exclusive interview amid reports of his health crisis.