A decade after publicly coming out as gay, former Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas has now revealed that he is HIV positive in a bid to help “break the stigma” surrounding the illness.
According to CNN, Thomas is the first British sportsman to announce that he is living with the virus. It is believed that the former British Lions captain, who is 45, felt forced to announce his condition after being threatened with blackmail.
“Hello I’m Gareth Thomas, and I want to share my secret with you,” he begins to say in a video posted on his Twitter page. “Why? because it’s mine to tell you, not the evils who have made my life hell, threatening to tell you before I do, and because I believe in you and I trust you.”
The sports hero, affectionately referred to as Alfie, then continues to say that “I am living with HIV; now you have that information that makes me extremely vulnerable, but it does not make me weak.” He then adds that while he is being “forced” to announce his condition, he pledges to “fight to educate and break the stigma” surrounding the illness.
“I am asking you to help me to show that everyone lives in fear of people’s reactions and opinions. But that doesn’t mean we should have to hide, but to do this, I really, really need your support,” he concludes.
In a related interview, Thomas told the Sunday Mirror that he had been living with “this secret for years,” and that the “shame” he felt from his diagnosis left him feeling suicidal.
“I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal. I thought about driving off a cliff,” he told the newspaper. “To me, wanting to die was just a natural thought and felt like the easier way out, but you have to confront things.”
CNN has further announced that Thomas is now in talks to discuss his diagnosis in an upcoming documentary for BBC Wales. In an exclusive trailer for the documentary, he the rugby legend can be seen saying that he is going public with his condition because he wants to “remember what it is like to live again; I want to remember what it’s like to feel free.”