Former rugby star Gareth Thomas has come out as HIV-positive, after learning that a tabloid had learned of his status.
“I want to share my secret with you,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “Not the evils that make my life hell by threatening to tell you before I do. And because I believe in you and I trust you.”
Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009 and retired from playing rugby in 2011, said he made the decision to publicly announce this due to being blackmailed, though added that didn’t make him weak.
Everyone lives in fear of people’s reactions and opinions to something about them, but that doesn’t mean we should have to hide.
In a follow up interview with the Sunday Mirror, Thomas reveals he’s been living with this secret for a number of years, discussing the toll keeping it hidden has taken on him. He credits his husband, Stephen, and a “strong support system” with helping him after being diagnosed.
“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.”
Though his decision was unfortunately forced, there is some good that comes of it. Namely, chipping away at the stigma many HIV+ people deal with on a daily basis.
“Many people live in fear and shame of having HIV, but I refuse to be one of them now,” he said. “We need to break the stigma once and for all. I’m speaking out because I want to help others and make a difference.”
Since his diagnosis, Thomas has sought out regular counseling and thanks to the antiretroviral medication he’s currently undetectable.
“I’m fitter now than when I played rugby and I didn’t have HIV then,” he says. “I’m not just all right, I’m better than all right.”