Former madam Heidi Fleiss hopes Charlie Sheen can become a role model, and help remove the stigma of having HIV.
ET sat down with Fleiss on Tuesday, following the actor's admission on the Today
show that he's HIV positive
. Sheen memorably testified against Fleiss when she was charged with tax evasion and pandering in 1995, and admitted he had spent $53,000
on 11 of Fleiss's prostitutes.
Still, there are no hard feelings from Fleiss, who said she hasn't talked to Sheen since before the trial.
"I think Charlie could -- it's a very important role he has -- that he change the stigma attached that people who have it [HIV] feel," Fleiss, 49, told ET. "I think a lot more people have it than we realize. But it's like asthma -- big deal -- so you take some medication. It's not a death sentence or something, and it shouldn't be this dirty little secret. Some of the people -- I've seen how they underachieve, how they drink and they act out -- and it's sad because it's so unnecessary."
Fleiss said she heard rumors about Sheen's health over a year ago, but was actually more surprised that the 50-year-old star allowed people to extort him. In an open letter, Sheen claimed he paid "countless millions"
to people who threatened to reveal his diagnosis.
"Him of all people to let someone extort him, and the way he lived, like, in his own prison like that, it's kind of shocking that someone like him did that," Fleiss commented. "That's the shocking part of the story -- not that he has it, that he fell for the extortion because [he knows] extortion is not going to end. Ten million dollars is going to be every penny he has."
"He's so smart," she stressed. "Even when he speaks, he's eloquent."
Fleiss believes Sheen's admission could do a lot of good, a la NBA pro Magic Johnson's 1991 admission that he’s HIV positive.
"It's shocking Charlie just didn't go that route … but now he will," she said. "He said there's other things that are important now, and he really can change it. Men, especially, look up to Charlie. Everyone thinks Charlie's cool. Everyone likes Charlie, except for religious people. So he really can make a difference."
Fleiss obviously still has a lot of affection for the former Two and a Half Men star.
"I love how he lives his life," she said. "I love that he pays for women. I think it's awesome."
She also told theDaily Mail
that she would even marry Sheen, though the two were never romantically involved in the past.
"I'd marry Charlie today even if he is HIV. I love him!" Fleiss surprisingly said. "I was his madam and his friend. We were young and crazy back then. If I was with him right now, I would ask him to marry me. Of course I would."
"I love the guy," she added. "We never had sex but I wish we had."
Sheen himself said on Tuesday that he hopes by coming forward about his HIV status, he will help others do the same. "I have a responsibility now to better myself and to help a lot of other people," he told Today show co-host Matt Lauer. "And hopefully with what we're doing today, others may come forward and say, 'Thanks Charlie. Thanks for kicking the door open.'"