LONDON. — Former Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby captain Gareth Thomas has said that he is HIV positive, having kept the diagnosis a secret for years, but says he was forced to tell people.
The 45-year-old became the first UK sportsman to disclose he has the virus during an interview with the Sunday Mirror — before revealing in a video on his Twitter page that he had been “forced” to make the admission.
In the video he says: “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.”
Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, he said 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, 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.”
In a documentary to be broadcast on Wednesday, the 45-year-old, who came out as gay in 2009, explains how in 2018 he felt like dying.
“When I first found out that I was going to have to live with HIV, the first thing I thought was straight away: I was going to die,” he said.
“It’s not like I blame people for not knowing this.
“This is a subject that because of the 1980s scenarios people don’t talk about it because that’s the only information they have.”
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.
About 101 600 people in the UK live with HIV but there is still a lot of stigma around the illness.
HIV can progress to AIDS if it is not treated, but most patients in wealthy countries do not develop AIDS if they get treatment.
Thomas says the condition has little impact on his day-to-day life given the advances in medicine other than taking a single pill every day and visiting the hospital for blood tests every six months.
Thomas made his Test debut for Wales in 1995 and went on to win 100 caps as well as three for the Lions in 2005. — BBC Sport.