Gareth Thomas stands at the side of the pitch during a Premier League match in Cardiff, 2018. (Athena Pictures/Getty Images)
Former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas has revealed he is living with HIV in a moving video, but said he had been “forced” to share the information.
Thomas, 45, also said he wants to “break the stigma” around people living with HIV and show how people who are HIV positive are misrepresented as “walking around with walking sticks who are close to dying”.
He spoke about the “shame” and “fear” of keeping his condition secret.
“I want to share my secret with you,” Thomas said in the video, which has had over a million views since he shared it on Twitter on September 14. “Because it’s mine to tell you.”
“Not the evils that make my life hell, threatening to tell you before I do. And because I believe in you, and I trust you.
“I am living with HIV.
“Now you have that information, that makes me extremely vulnerable – but it does not make me weak.
“No, even though I’ve been forced to tell you this, I choose to fight and educate to break the stigma around this subject. And that begins today, when I take on the toughest IronMan in the world in Tenby and I push myself physically to the limits.”
Responses on Twitter have been sympathetic to Thomas being forced to come out – with many positing that a British tabloid had threatened to out him.
I’m disgusted that a tabloid wanted to tell your parents just so they could get a reaction to sell their shitty paper. Total invasion of privacy and not their secret to tell. You’re very brave ✌🏻❤️
Are we still doing this? How long ago did Freddie Mercury die? Or Princess Diana?
Gareth, I am sorry that in 2019 some R Sole of a newspaper is STILL trying to make money off your suffering. Most of us really aren’t interested, it is your life to manage 👍
— Andrew Brown (@OnlyMeWaffling) September 14, 2019
The ex-British and Irish Lions captain will talk about his diagnosis in a BBC Wales documentary on Wednesday.
Ian Green, the chief executive of British HIV and sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said, “I’m very proud to call Gareth Thomas a friend. Gareth is proof that an HIV diagnosis shouldn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do – whatever that is. I hope that by speaking publicly about this Gareth will transform attitudes towards HIV that are all too often stuck in the 1980s.
“We’ve made huge medical advances in the fight against HIV that means that people living with HIV like Gareth now live long healthy lives. We can also say without doubt that those and on effective HIV treatment can’t pass on the virus. This is exactly the kind of information Gareth wants to get out there to challenge the stigma that still surrounds this virus.
“Gareth blazed a trail by being the first rugby player to come out as gay and has done so much to encourage inclusion and diversity within the sport. Now he is doing that once again with HIV and taking on the challenge of a lifetime in Ironman Wales to show that this virus doesn’t need to be a barrier when you’re diagnosed and accessing treatment.”
Gareth Thomas came out as gay in 2009.