Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has revealed that he is HIV positive, declaring via Twitter that he wants to “break the stigma” around the condition.
The ex-British & Irish Lions wing, who was captain for the second and third tests against New Zealand in 2005, also said that he wants to show how people with HIV are misrepresented as “walking around with walking sticks who are close to dying”. He also spoke about the “shame” and “fear” of keeping his condition secret.
In a BBC Wales documentary due to air on Wednesday, Thomas says that, at his lowest point in 2018 he felt like dying.
Thanks to pioneering medicine discoveries, however, people who are HIV positive are now able to live long and healthy lives and – with treatment – the virus cannot be transmitted.
Thomas became one of the first international rugby stars to come out as gay, saying at the time:
What I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby.”
Apart from waking up at 6am every day to take a pill and visiting the hospital every six months for blood tests, the condition has little impact on Thomas’ day-to-day life, he told the BBC.
Thomas admitted that revealing the diagnosis was similar to his experiences when he came out as gay because of “the fear, the hiding, the secrecy; the not knowing how people are going to react”.
But I think when it was all about my sexuality it just seemed like there was more empathy and more understanding because you had more knowledge, because you could turn on the telly and you could see that there was LGBT representation on most platforms.”
Thomas won the Heineken Cup with Toulouse in 2005 and captained Wales to their first grand slam in 27 years in the same year. He won his first Wales cap in 2007, before announcing his retirement in 2011.
In 2018, Thomas was the victim of a hate crime after he was assaulted in Cardiff, allegedly because of his sexuality.
WRUTV takes a look back at the career of Welsh centurion Gareth Thomas. Gareth was the first Welsh player ever to reach 100 international caps before being joined by Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Gethin Jenkins. He ranked second behind Shane Williams in Welsh try scorers.
Please leave your questions and comments below: