Newstalk
Newstalk

10.32 15 Sep 2019


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Former rugby player Gareth Thomas has revealed he is living with HIV, having kept the diagnosis a secret for years.

The 45-year-old Welshman became the first UK sportsman to disclose he has the virus during an interview with the UK's Sunday Mirror - before revealing in a video on his Twitter page that he had been "forced" to make the admission.

"I've been threatened by people who said they would give away my secret. It's sick and I've been through hell," he told the paper.

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"I was being blackmailed and in my mind I thought you only get blackmailed for something really bad, which compounded the feeling of shame."

In the video he said: "I want to share my secret with you. Why? Because it's mine to tell. Not the evils threatening to tell you before I do.

"Now even though I've been forced to tell you this, I choose to fight to educate."

He told the newspaper he had felt "shame" over the diagnosis and was suicidal at one point.

"I had a fear people would judge me and treat me like a leper because of a lack of knowledge," he said.

"I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal. I thought about driving off a cliff."

The former Wales rugby union and league star came out as gay in 2009, becoming the first British rugby international to do so.

Describing the day he received the diagnosis, Mr Thomas said: "I'll never ever forget the moment I found out. I went for a routine sexual health test at a private clinic in Cardiff.

"I'd had the tests every now and again and they'd always come back okay. I didn't feel ill and I thought everything was going to be fine.

"The woman who did the test took blood as usual, then I went out to my car and waited for about an hour before going back in to get my results.

"When I went back in, I sat down on a chair next to a doctor's bench. She told me in a quite matter-of-fact way I had tested HIV positive."

The rugby star said he immediately "broke down" and "thought I was going to die", adding: "I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph."

Mr Thomas now takes one tablet containing four medications a day and his condition is "undetectable" - meaning it cannot be passed on.

His husband Stephen, who he met after being diagnosed, does not have HIV.

Mr Thomas said: "Many people live in fear and shame of having HIV, but I refuse to be one of them now. We need to break the stigma once and for all.

"I'm speaking out because I want to help others and make a difference."


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