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Charlie Sheen confirms that he is HIV positive

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Charlie Sheen has confirmed that he is HIV positive. Speaking on the Today show, the former Two and a Half Men star said he was speaking out "to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and sub-truths".

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The actor, who has five children, learned about his diagnosis about four years ago and is "not entirely" sure how he contracted the virus. Describing himself as "a survivor", he said: "It's a hard three letters to absorb".

Asked by host Matt Lauer if he could have transmitted the virus to anyone else since finding out, the 50-year-old said: "Impossible", adding: "I always led with honesty when it came to my condition".

He told a few trusted people in his circle including his ex-wives Brooke Mueller and Denise Richards.

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Charlie said it was a relief to "release myself from this prison today" after admitting that he had paid millions in response to blackmail threats from people ready to expose the fact that he had HIV. "What people forget is that it’s money that they are taking from my children" he said. "They think it’s just it’s just me but I have got five kids and a granddaughter."

The Hollywood veteran was accompanied by his physician Dr Robert Huizenga, who confirmed that he does not have AIDS.

Ahead of the interview, Charlie received support from friends such as Heather Locklear, who posted that her "heart hurt" for him and sent prayers to him and his family.

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Charlie is the son of film star Martin Sheen. He has twin boys with Brooke, two daughters with Denise, and a 31-year-old daughter with his high-school sweetheart Paula Profit.

In his long career, the American actor has appeared in films such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Platoon, Wall Street and Major League. At one point he was the highest paid actor on TV, earning a reported $1.8million per episode for his work on Two and a Half Men.

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However, in the last few years his controversial private life has overshadowed his screen success. There was a public feud with Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre, leading to Charlie's departure from the CBS sitcom in 2011.

This came after the two difficult divorces from Denise and Brooke. Then, in 2014 Charlie proposed to adult film star Brett Rossi and told fans he had married her, later revealing that it was a joke "to give Denise a stroke". He and Brett split eight months later.

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Now Charlie plans to use the publicity generated by his health issues to campaign for fellow HIV sufferers, announcing: "I am going to ride this wave of support. If there is one guy on the planet to contract this, that's going to deliver a cure, it's me."