Charlie Sheen’s career has spanned decades, from his early breakthrough performances in iconic films like 1986’s Platoon and 1987’s Wall Street to his unforgettable portrayal of the irreverent Charlie Harper on the sitcom Two and a Half Men.
Beyond his on-screen presence, the son of iconic actor Martin Sheen has shown resilience and an ability to bounce back from personal challenges, including an HIV diagnosis. Charlie’s disclosure of his disease put HIV in the public discourse and made the actor one of the most famous people in the world to be openly living with HIV.
His storyline was not without controversy, though. Several women alleged that he failed to disclose his status and put them at risk, per TMZ. In August 2022, Charlie settled a 2017 lawsuit filed by an ex-girlfriend who alleged he knowingly exposed her to HIV during sex. As part of the settlement, the actor agreed to pay the woman a total of $120,000, delivered in monthly installments of $10,000, reported TMZ, which obtained the legal documents.
Of course, at the time of his HIV disclosure, attention turned toward his ex-wife Denise Richards. The actress told Access Hollywood at the time that neither she, nor her two daughters that she shares with Charlie, Sam and Lola, were infected with the incurable disease. She insisted that Charlie contracted HIV after they divorced in November 2006, and that they had “not been intimate” since.
While Charlie continues to entertain the masses — he has a guest appearance on the upcoming comedy How To Be A Bookie — let’s learn more about his health battle, below.
Charlie Sheen Was Diagnosed With HIV
In a bold revelation in November 2015 on the Today Show, Charlie opened up about his HIV-positive status, disclosing that he’d been living with the virus for the past four years. “It started with what I thought was a series of crushing headaches,” he told Matt Lauer. “I thought I had a brain tumor. I thought it was over.”
The Major League didn’t hold back as he spilled more details, revealing that he had paid upwards of $10 million to sexual partners in order to keep his disease secret, and had been the target of “shakedowns” for more money.
“What people forget is that that’s money they’re taking from my children,” he told Matt about the “shakedowns.” “I trusted them and they were deep in my inner circle, and I thought they could be helpful. My trust turned to their treason.”
Claiming to have had unprotected escapades with some partners post-diagnosis, Charlie also made it clear that he took precautions to prevent transmission. He insisted that he’d been transparent with his sexual partners, giving them the info on his diagnosis prior to sexual endeavors.
He also revealed how the conversation about his diagnosis went with his eldest daughter, Sam. “It hit her hard, but she recovered. She’s tough like her dad,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but it didn’t seem like you could do anything for me and I didn’t want to burden you with all the stress.’ But she was a rock star about it.”
At the end of the interview, Charlie said he hoped by going public with the diagnosis, it would help dispel the stigma of HIV. “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,’” he divulged.
What Is HIV?
HIV, short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a retrovirus that attacks the immune system, specifically targeting CD4 cells (also known as T-helper cells), a crucial component of the body’s defense mechanism, per the Mayo Clinic. This virus can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition that severely weakens the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to opportunistic infections and certain types of cancer.
HIV is primarily transmitted through specific body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Common modes of transmission include unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing needles or syringes contaminated with the virus, and transmission from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
While there is no cure for HIV, significant progress has been made in managing the virus. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has proven highly effective in controlling HIV replication, slowing down the progression of the disease, and significantly improving the life expectancy and quality of life for people living with HIV.
To prevent the spread of the virus, practicing safe sex, using sterile needles, and seeking HIV testing and counseling are critical.
How Long Has Charlie Sheen Been Sick?
When Charlie revealed to the world that he was HIV positive in 2015, he said he had been living with the disease for four years. In some positive news, his announcement likely played a huge part in boosting sales of home HIV test kits. By some counts, HIV test sales jumped up to 95% immediately after the 2015 announcement and remained as high as 60% up to a month later, per TMZ. “It’s exciting, and it’s great to be of service at that level,” he told the outlet.
How Is Charlie Sheen Doing Today?
Charlie provided an update on his health, saying he switched medicines and found great success. “I think about how I felt on the day [I took the older regimen] and how I feel today. Wow. Talk about a transformation,” he previously told DailyMail. “One minute you’re on the road to perdition, the next you’re on the road to providence. It’s amazing.” He also said his previous HIV medication left him with “borderline dementia.”
Around the same time in 2017, he opened up about his revelation post-diagnosis. “The day I was diagnosed, I immediately wanted to eat a bullet,” the actor told Michael Strahan on Good Morning America. “But my mom was there. I wouldn’t do that in front of her or let her find me to clean up that mess.”
“But then, something else came over me. They gave me a handful of pills and said, ‘You can go home now, and you’re going to live,'” Sheen added. “If I was there with, you know, brain cancer or, or, a stomach thing, or some meningitis, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
“I’m so grateful for what was available when it happened and even more grateful for what’s available right now, when I’m, I’m in the middle of it, you know?” He added that some days “are better than others. But, but most days are pretty frickin’ cool.”
In 2023, Charlie opened up to PEOPLE about his health, focusing on his past struggle with addiction.
“Next month I’ll be six years sober. I have a very consistent lifestyle now,” he noted. “For the longest time, I had the best work reputation. I was the first to arrive, last to leave, when in doubt, I would over prepare. I would just check every box. And then that went away. So, I was really excited about being that guy again.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).