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Charlie Sheen Discusses Shame, Attempt to Conceal HIV Status

PASADENA - JULY 15: Charlie Sheen at CBS's TCA Press Tour at TheCharlie Sheen has been a big name in Hollywood for decades and, during that time, he earned a bit of a reputation for his partying ways. Still, he continued to make movies and reached massive television success on Two and a Half Men.  It seemed like things were going great for him until his falling out with producer, Chuck Lorre, resulted in him being killed off the show. What followed was a confusing period during which Sheen appeared increasingly unstable. Over time, things quieted down and he faded a bit from the spotlight but, after a very revealing interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show, he’s back to being the center of attention.

Charlie Sheen Confirms HIV Status

When he sat down with Lauer yesterday, Sheen confirmed that he is HIV positive. The 50-year-old actor said: “It’s a hard three letters to absorb. It’s a turning point in one’s life.” Most of us can only imagine the emotional turmoil that would come with that type of diagnosis. It would be daunting to try to digest that kind of news while trying to hide it from the continually prying public eye.

The reason Sheen came forward, however, is that some people around him know about it and have been demanding money in return for their silence. He explained: “I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that are about me, threatening the health of so many others that couldn’t be further from the truth.” Adding that he’s paid out more then $10 million for his privacy, he continued: “What people forget is that that’s money they’re taking from my children. I trusted them and they were deep in my inner circle, and I thought they could be helpful. My trust turned to their treason.”

The actor said that he was on a mission to free himself from that unhealthy life of lies. He said: “That’s my goal. That’s not my only goal. I think I release myself from this prison today.”

Terrible Headaches

About four years ago, Sheen sought medical attention for some concerning symptoms. “It started with what I thought was a series of crushing headaches,” he said. “I thought I had a brain tumor. I thought it was over.” He was surprised, therefore, when his physician, Dr. Robert Huizenga, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told him that he had contracted HIV.

Despite his history of substance use and abuse, Sheen says that he does not know how he became infected. He insists that he never used needles during his drug use. He is adamant about the fact that he has not knowingly transmitted the virus to others but does admit that he has had unprotected sex with two people since his diagnoses. They were, he says, informed about his condition and sought medical care from Dr. Huizenga as well.

In order to manage the disease, Sheen takes four pills every day but Dr. Huizenga is concerned about his patient’s ability to keep up with his prescribed treatment. “We’re petrified about Charlie. We’re so, so anxious that if he was overly depressed, if he was abusing substance, he would forget these pills and that’s been an incredible worry.” He did give Sheen credit, however, for how well he’s done so far. “Magically, somehow in the midst of incredible personal mayhem, he’s managed to continue to take these medications,” Huizenga said.

Removing the Stigma

By coming forward with his HIV positive status, Sheen is hoping to dispel some of the stigma around the diagnosis. As he said: “I have a responsibility now to better myself and to help a lot of other people and hopefully with what we’re doing today others will come forward and say, ‘Thanks, Charlie.'”


While he told his ex-wives, Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller, about the diagnosis when he found out, he chose to wait until recently to tell his oldest daughter. He says that he apologized for not telling her sooner but that he wanted to avoid stressing her out when there was nothing she could do. He says “it hit her had, but she recovered” because “she’s tough like her dad.”




Father Weighs In


We all want support from our families during hard times and Charlie can count on the support of his father, Martin Sheen. The 75-year-old actor said that his son’s disclosure was “the most difficult thing he’s ever done. He had been leading up to this sort of story for several months, and we kept encouraging him to do it, and he kept backing away and backing away because it was like going to his own execution, I guess.”

The elder Sheen, who has a history of HIV/AIDS activism, made his statements while attending the eighth annual CME Group’s Global Financial Leadership Conference. He also admitted that, after all this time, he didn’t know if his son was actually going to go through with it. He continued: “We didn’t know until he walked on the set this morning that he was going to do it. I saw him Saturday night, my wife and I went to see him, to make sure he knew we were behind him, and if he wanted me to go, I would have canceled this event. He said, no, this was his and his alone.”

While addressing the 300 attendees, Martin grew emotional while sharing what it was like to watch the interview on the Today show. He said: “This morning, as I watched him alone, reveal his deepest, darkest secret, I couldn’t believe the level of courage I was witnessing, and that it was my son.  I left him a message, and I said that if I had that much courage, I would change the world. This afternoon, I was still unable to reach him, and I left another message, that my favorite quote from Robert Kennedy was fulfilled with him today. Robert Kennedy once said, ‘One heart with courage is a majority.’”

Learning from the Past

As mentioned, Sheen’s life and career took a downward turn right around the time he was fired from Two and a Half Men. Some may assume that his unpredictable behavior was the result of his diagnosis but he says that it “was more of a (ste)roid rage.” When reflecting on his behavior at that time, Sheen says: “There’s a lot out there I’m not proud of. You can only hear ‘winning’ in the streets so many times. I’ve pissed off a lot of really good opportunities.”

It seems as though he’s in a better place despite the fact that he admits that things are ‘not great” right now. Of the future, he says: “I’m approaching a time of more of a philanthropic approach in my life… 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. It’s another chapter in my life but it’s not commerce driven. It’s socially driven.”

Sheen is optimistic about his future career and doubts that his HIV status will affect his ability to land roles. He claims to be in talks with Sony for a television show and says he has a couple films lined up. Regardless of what happens from this point forward, Sheen no longer has to live with this secret in the shadows.

Charlie Sheen Discusses Shame, Attempt to Conceal HIV Status

Jeanne Croteau

Jeanne has been a celebrity blogger for eight years and also teaches psychology at the college level. In addition to her passion for mental health, she is an avid reader, hockey fan and mother of four.

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APA Reference
Croteau, J. (2015). Charlie Sheen Discusses Shame, Attempt to Conceal HIV Status. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Nov 2015
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