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Charlie Sheen discloses he is HIV positive

The actor, notorious for his turbulent lifestyle, has admitted on television he was diagnosed with the virus years ago. He has decided to make it known after blackmail had grown too costly.

Sheen told the hosts of the American morning news program "Today" that he was diagnosed as HIV positive four years ago.

Sheen is "not entirely sure" how he contracted the virus that could lead to AIDS. Yet he dismissed as "impossible" the chance that he transmitted it to anyone else, haven taken proper precaution.

He decided to make the announcement partly in response to being blackmailed. Sheen claims to have been extorted for sums reaching millions of dollars by prostitutes and people he considered close.

"I think I released myself from this prison today," he said.

The former "Two and a Half Men" star - his character was a womanizing bachelor - was the highest paid US television actor before being fired for erratic behavior, often fuelled by alcohol and cocaine, and for allegedly assaulting an ex-wife. Sheen has been divorced three times and has five children.

He hoped his announcement would reduce the stigma felt by those with the HIV virus. "I have a responsibility now to better myself and to help a lot of other people."

Maybe others will "come forward and say, 'Thanks, Charlie, for kicking the door open,'" Sheen added.

jtm/kms (AP, Reuters)

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