Martin Sheen Says Family Encouraged Charlie Sheen to Announce HIV Status
By Antoinette Bueno
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Martin Sheen is proud of his son, Charlie Sheen, after the former Two and a Half Men star publicly announced that he's HIV positive on Tuesday.
Just hours after the announcement, the 75-year-old former West Wing actor talked about his son's headline-making revelation at CME Group's Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, Florida. Martin said that he and his family encouraged the 50-year-old actor "for several months" to reveal his diagnosis.
"He had been leading up to this sort of story for several months, and we kept encouraging him to do it," Martin said, via the Naples Daily News. "And he kept backing away and backing away because it was like going to his own execution, I guess. It was the most difficult thing he'd ever done. And he kind of sealed it when he called Matt Lauer last week and asked if he could go on."
Martin called his son courageous for coming clean about his condition.
"This morning, as I watched him alone, reveal his deepest, darkest secret, I couldn't believe the level of courage I was witnessing, and that it was my son," he said. "I left him a message, and I said that if I had that much courage, I would change the world."
The veteran actor called for compassion for those battling addictions. Charlie has publicly struggled with substance abuse problems, and Martin has also been open about his own past struggles with alcohol. Martin stopped drinking in 1989.
"So, I just want to encourage all of you that have children, spouses, aunts, uncles, clients, that are involved in any form of addiction to realize that it's a disease," Martin said. "And if it they had cancer, you wouldn't think of them any differently. But most importantly, people -- and I speak from my own personal experience -- most people who become addicted are looking for a transcendent experience. They are looking for one, the other, God, whatever it is, and naturally they shortcut the journey because, the apparition."
"It belongs to the drug, of course, but the effort to find the transcendence in our humanity, our brokenness, to accept the brokenness and to rise with it, without the drug, is what we call recovery," he added. "And I hope that this day is the first day of the rest of Charlie's life as a free man."
Martin has long been an outspoken HIV and AIDS activist. Most recently, Sheen acted as chairman, alongside son Emilio Estevez, at the 2010 Cinema Against AIDS Toronto event, which raised $1 million to benefit amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research and Dignitas International.
Martin also isn't the only one close to Charlie speaking out about his big revelation. Many of the women in the actor's life have since offered messages of support. ET sat down with former madam Heidi Fleiss on Tuesday -- who Charlie memorably testified against in 1995 -- when and she made it clear that she has no hard feelings towards him.
"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 said. "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."
"I love how he lives his life," she added. "I love that he pays for women. I think it's awesome."