STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Charlie Sheen has made a jarring disclosure. He spoke to NBC's "Today" show this morning.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TODAY")
CHARLIE SHEEN: I'm here to admit that I am, in fact, HIV-positive.
INSKEEP: HIV-positive, he said. Now, reports had leaked that Sheen would disclose his HIV status. But the star has gone further in this interview, telling Matt Lauer that people who he had confided in had blackmailed him and that he paid millions of dollars to keep this health issue a secret for years.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TODAY")
SHEEN: Very harmful and mercurial stories that - that - that - that are about threatening the health of so many others, which is - which is - couldn't be farther from the truth.
INSKEEP: Couldn't be farther from the truth. That's Charlie Sheen speaking today. He says that he has known he is HIV-positive for years. And we're going to talk about this with our TV critic, Eric Deggans, who's on the line. Eric, good morning.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: So what are some of the details that Sheen told in this story?
DEGGANS: Well, apparently he said that he's been HIV-positive for four years and that he brought some, quote, "unsavory" people into his life. He eventually paid millions to keep this secret - eventually, he said, about 10 million. He said that he's notified his ex-wives, Brooke Mueller and Denis Richards, of his status. But he also admitted having unprotected sex twice with women who knew his status but were under his doctor's care. And he also brought in a doctor to talk a little bit about his chance of spreading the virus and how he's...
INSKEEP: Wait a minute. Help me understand - had unprotected sex with women who knew his status and were under his - his doctor's care. What does that mean, under his doctor's care?
DEGGANS: Your guess is as good as mine, Steve. One of the things that those of us who've watched Charlie Sheen's career know is that he has sort of created an off assortment of characters that he surrounds himself with and lives life according to how he chooses. He claims that he notified these women of his status and that his doctor was monitoring them. I don't really know what that means. One thing that his representative has said in other stories about this exposure that were published yesterday is that Sheen was concerned that he was going to be sued by past sexual partners over this issue. So these questions are sort of at the heart of why he has kept this secret for so long and why he's exposing them now.
INSKEEP: OK, I'm just trying to count back. If he has known for four years that he was HIV-positive, did he know this at the time he was having that unbelievable public meltdown a few years back?
DEGGANS: The math seems to work out. And he did acknowledge during the interview that that fueled some of what he was doing. Back then, he was TVs highest paid actor. He was starring on CBS's "Two And A Half Men," which was a highly rated TV show. But he recorded these video where he was insulting and threatening the show's executive producer. They shut down the show. They eventually fired him. And then he went you know, on sort of this public tour where he talked about his activities and sort of brandished his hard-partying lifestyle as something that was a symbol of his success and his ability - his stamina and... But others, of course, wondered - and even those close to him wondered - if he was risking his health by doing this. And now, you know, we find out that he was diagnosed with HIV around this time.
INSKEEP: OK, Eric, thanks very much.
DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Eric Deggans, reporting on news that Charlie Sheen says he is HIV-positive.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.