Rugby Union news: Former Wales international Gareth Thomas reveals he is HIV positive

15 Sep

Former Wales international Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive.

Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus, and has revealed he was driven to suicidal thoughts as a result of his diagnosis.

Gareth Thomas is a former Wales captain

He went public with his illness after being put “through hell” by blackmailers who threatened to expose his secret.

The 45-year-old told the Sunday Mirror: “I’ve been living with this secret for years.

“I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll.

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

“To me, wanting to die was just a natural thought and felt like the easier way out, but you have to confront things.”

The former British and Irish Lions captain, who will be a TV pundit in the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan, said he “broke down” when he got the news of his diagnosis.

Thomas said: “I went for a routine sexual health test at a private clinic in Cardiff.

“I didn’t feel ill and thought everything was going to be fine.

“When (the doctor) said those words… I immediately thought I was going to die.

“I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph. Then I was thinking ‘how long have I got left?'”

He added: “I’ve been threatened by people who said they would give away my secret. It’s sick and I’ve been through hell.

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

Gareth Thomas with talkSPORT’S Andy Jacobs and Paul Hawksbee and the Rugby League World Cup
talkSPORT

The former Cardiff Blues player won 103 caps and scored 41 tries for Wales between 1995 and 2007, and he is 13th on the all-time international test try-scoring list.

Last November, he was attacked in Cardiff city centre in a homophobic hate crime, but asked South Wales Police to deal with the 16-year-old assailant by way of restorative justice.

The sportsman now takes one tablet containing four medications each day, and doctors have said his condition is under control to the point that it is considered “undetectable” and cannot be passed on.

Thomas said that his husband Stephen, who he met after his diagnosis and married three years ago, does not have HIV.

His decision to speak out was backed by the Duke of Cambridge, through his Kensington Palace account, adding “W” meaning it was written by William himself.

 

Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust HIV charity, said Thomas’s diagnosis may help change public attitudes.

“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.”

Mr Green said improving treatment “means that people living with HIV like Gareth now live long healthy lives”.

“This is exactly the kind of information Gareth wants to get out there to challenge the stigma that still surrounds this virus.”

Mr Green said that Thomas 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”.

He added: “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.”

French rugby stars to wear rainbow laces in support of Gareth Thomas

21 Nov

France’s rugby team will wear rainbow laces when they meet Fiji in Paris on Saturday to show support for Gareth Thomas.

Former Wales captain Thomas was the victim of a homophobic attack in Cardiff’s city centre last weekend.

Rainbow laces are part of a campaign in support of the LGBT community

A message of support for the 44-year-old, who played in France for Toulouse from 2004 to 2007, was posted on Twitter by Serge Simon, the vice-president of the French Rugby Federation.

“All of French Rugby is with you regarding the homophobic molestation you’ve been victim of,” Simon said.

“To show our support, the French rugby players will wear a rainbow shoe lace during the France – Fiji game on Saturday night.

“We’re all in with you in this matter.”

In response, Thomas said: “To the French Rugby Federation, merci.

“The players wearing rainbow laces in solidarity is an immense sign of inclusion.”

On Sunday Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, posted a video to Twitter in which he thanked the police and the people of Cardiff for their support following the attack.

He also said he had opted to deal with his attacker, a 16-year-old boy, using restorative justice, when a victim talks to the perpetrator about the harm they have caused, “because I thought they could learn more that way than any other way.”

Thomas added: “There are a lot of people out there who want to hurt us, but unfortunately for them there are a lot more who want to help us heal, so this I hope will be a positive message.”