Rugby legend Gareth Thomas has shocked the fans of the sport, revealing he has been battling HIV for several years.
The Welsh sporting great, who came out as gay in 2009, revealed his condition in an interview with the Sunday Mirror.
Thomas described his feelings of ‘shame’ when he was first diagnosed with the condition, but has chosen to make it public in an effort to reduce the stigma around the disease.
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The 45-year-old’s condition is under control and considered to be undetectable, and also cannot be passed on.
“I’ve been living with this secret for years. I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll,” Thomas told the Sunday Mirror.
“I had a fear people would judge me and treat me like a leper because of a lack of knowledge. I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal.
“I thought about driving off a cliff.
“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.”
Speaking out against stigma
Thomas described sobbing in the arms of the doctor who gave him his diagnosis, as well as tearfully telling a friend he thought he was going to do, as he travelled to Cardiff Royal Infirmary.
The rugby legend has become a celebrated figure in the LGBTI community in Wales, after coming out in the twilight of his playing career.
Geez .. what freakin’ century are we living in? Gareth Thomas says “evils” threatened to out his HIV status. Just so bizarre how ridiculously backward and hateful some people still are. Stand tall Gareth Thomas. https://t.co/YjSGqy4GQa— Joe O'Brien (@JoeABCNews) September 15, 2019
Having earned more than 100 Test caps for his country, Thomas said his next challenge was to improve the lives of others living with the condition.
“I think if you went out on the street right now and told 10 people you have HIV, 50 per cent of them would be scared you’re going to give it to them,” he said.
“I don’t blame people for thinking it, because I did too, but we need to change that by talking about it and educating people.”