Charlie Sheen HIV
Charlie Sheen has confirmed he is HIV positive Reuters

Following days of speculation, Hollywood playboy Charlie Sheen has admitted he has HIV. The former Two and a Half Men star, at one point the highest-paid actor on TV, made the announcement in an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show.

"I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub truths," he said, adding he was diagnosed four years ago. "I release myself from this prison today," he said of his decision to end media speculation over his health.

Recalling the moment he got the news, he said: "It's a hard three letters to absorb," adding that "It's a turning point in one's life."

He went on to reveal that the truth had leaked after he broke the news to those he thought were close friends. "I trusted them, they were in my inner circle and thought they could be helpful. My trust turned to their treason," he said, adding that he had been forced to pay "millions" to keep people from going public about his illness over the years.

He spoke candidly about being held ransom by a prostitute who entered his bathroom, took a cellphone picture of his medication and threatened to sell the image to tabloids."We're talking about shakedowns," he said. "I've paid those people -- not that many."

"I chose or hired the companionship of insipid types," he said in a letter written to Lauer before the interview. "A deluge of blackmail and extortion took centre stage in this circus of deceit."

The 50-year-old admitted that while his alcohol and drug addictions were a "bad decision", it was "impossible" that he could have passed HIV on to anyone else.

Sheen, who has been married three times and has five children, vowed that he would no longer continue to pay those that had been extorting him.