Charlie SheenThe star, who turned his audacious self-image and unpredictable behavior into a #WINNING hashtag – cleared the air on the TODAY show.

Sheen, who in part came forward to put an end to blackmailers, says he paid people “into the millions” to keep his diagnosis a secret. “That is money taken away from my kids.” He promised to himself that after today, he’d stop paying those people. “I think that I release myself from this prison today,” he said.

Sheen says he first learned about the diagnosis about four years ago, after crippling migraines and waking up with night sweats. He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent a barrage of tests. (This coincides with an article in the Daily Mail (below) that shows a frail, sickly looking Sheen.

He said he wasn’t sure how he got the disease: “I was doing a lot of drugs,” he said. “I was drinking way too much. I was making a lot of bad decisions.” He says he doesn’t think its possible that he transmitted it to others and that he has told his sex partners about his diagnosis.

Before Sheen’s admission, it was a story that up until yesterday the mainstream media had kept a safe distance from, despite specific reports from the National Enquirer, and ‘blind items’ from and pointing to a womanizing actor that was HIV positive. The detailed background all but described the actor to a ‘T’ without naming him. Then, a Today Show press release yesterday announced  that Sheen will sit down for an interview – saying only that the actor will make a “revealing personal announcement.”

And so, the media firestorm began.

Top Hollywood publicist and crisis manager Howard Bragman, told People mazazine he was approached by people close to Sheen about a half a year ago. Bragman tells the magazine he was informed that Sheen “is getting treatment, and a lot of people in his life know about it… It’s been going on for quite awhile. He’s not necessarily comfortable talking about it. It was very hard to get up the courage for him to talk about it.”

The announcement is likely to spark a lively discussion about HIV and AIDS. Up until now, recent news about the diseases had been been some encouraging medical news. Trials for an HIV vaccine aren’t far off. Already, there is an FDA-approved drug that can prevent HIV infections. Critics have argued that the drug would promote unsafe sex and cause HIV infections to rise.

But with Sheen’s potential announcement, his history of bravado – publicly bragging about his sexual exploits with prostitutes and adult film stars – its uncertain where the dialogue will go. Will public reaction be one of sympathy, condemnation, or an apathetic lack of surprise? My guess is a little of all three. Then, the unanswerable debate over how Sheen contracted the disease – through sexual contact or drug use.

Back in 2011, The Daily Mail did a story about Charlie's haggard appearance.

Back in 2011, The Daily Mail did a story about Charlie’s haggard appearance.

For certain, the story provides an important reminder of the importance of safe sex and the dangers of drugs.

Sheen has been married three times and has five children – a daughter Cassandra, 21, with high school sweetheart Paula Profit; Daughters Sam, 11, and Lola, 10, with second wife Denise Richards; and twin boys Bob and Max, 6, with third wife Brooke Mueller. He was briefly engaged to adult film star Scottin Ross (aka Brett Rossi) in 2014.