Duke of Sussex and Gareth Thomas to raise awareness of HIV

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas says he is planning to team up with the Duke of Sussex to do more to ‘break the stigma around HIV.’

It comes as Thomas, 45, revealed he has been living with the virus ‘for years’  after blackmailers put him ‘through hell’ threatening to expose his secret.

Thomas said he hadn’t previously spoken out about his diagnosis after fears he would be ‘treated like a leper.’

There was an outpouring of support on social media following Thomas’ announcement.  

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas (pictured) says he is planning to team up with the Duke of Sussex to do more to 'break the stigma around HIV'

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas (pictured) says he is planning to team up with the Duke of Sussex to do more to 'break the stigma around HIV'

Harry, The Duke of Sussex, joined in the chorus of praise for Thomas on Instagram. 'Gareth, you are an absolute legend! In sharing your story of being HIV+, you are saving lives and shattering stigma, by showing you can be strong and resilient while living with HIV,' he said. The Duke of Sussex is pictured during a visit to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) All Schools programme at Lealands High School in Luton, south east Bedfordshire on September 12

Harry, The Duke of Sussex, joined in the chorus of praise for Thomas on Instagram. 'Gareth, you are an absolute legend! In sharing your story of being HIV+, you are saving lives and shattering stigma, by showing you can be strong and resilient while living with HIV,' he said. The Duke of Sussex is pictured during a visit to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) All Schools programme at Lealands High School in Luton, south east Bedfordshire on September 12

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas (pictured left) says he is planning to team up with the Duke of Sussex (pictured right) to do more to ‘break the stigma around HIV’

The Duke of Cambridge called him ‘courageous as ever’, international referee Nigel Owens said Thomas was ‘brave as ever’ and Kelly Holmes called him a ‘legend’.

Harry, The Duke of Sussex, joined in the chorus of praise for Thomas on Instagram.

‘Gareth, you are an absolute legend! In sharing your story of being HIV+, you are saving lives and shattering stigma, by showing you can be strong and resilient while living with HIV. ‘We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you.’ – H   

'We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you.' - H, added on Instagram

'We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you.' - H, added on Instagram

‘We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you.’ – H, added on Instagram

Prince Harry has blood taken for a HIV test (Chris Jackson/PA)

Prince Harry has blood taken for a HIV test (Chris Jackson/PA)

Prince Harry has blood taken for a HIV test (Chris Jackson/PA)

‘Like me, Prince Harry wants to break the stigma around HIV and he has already done a lot of great work,’ Thomas told the Daily Mirror

‘We are planning to work together now. To do something with him will be really powerful.’

He also spoke of how work started by Diana, Princess of Wales, can be built upon to change people’s attitudes towards HIV and AIDS.

He told the paper: ‘Quite often I look at that photo of Diana at the clinic next to those frail-looking men and then I look at a photo of myself out on my bike and it motivates me because I can see how things have changed and advanced.’

The Duke of Sussex took a public HIV test alongside Rihanna on World Aids Day in 2016 and launched a campaign with Sir Elton John to combat the spread of the virus.

The Duke and Sir Elton launched the MenStar coalition last year which will expand the diagnoses and treatment of HIV infections in men, ‘with the aim of ultimately ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030,’ Kensington Palace said at the time.

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas who took part in a 140-mile Ironman triathlon (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas who took part in a 140-mile Ironman triathlon (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas who took part in a 140-mile Ironman triathlon (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Meanwhile, Thomas hugged his husband, Stephen, 56, as he finished a gruelling 140-mile Ironman triathlon just a day after revealing he is HIV positive. 

The sports star also revealed his husband doesn’t have HIV.

After finishing the swim section in just under an hour and a half, the 45-year-old, known affectionately as Alfie, clambered onto his bike for a 112-mile cycle.

He waved at the crowds but remained serious and determined, staying focused on the race, which will finish with a marathon later today.   

The 45-year-old was cheered and applauded as he completed the mammoth challenge in 12 hours 18 minutes and 29 seconds, placing 413th out of 2,039 participants.

Thomas completed 140-mile Ironman triathlon just a day after revealing he is HIV positive (pictured above)

Thomas completed 140-mile Ironman triathlon just a day after revealing he is HIV positive (pictured above)

Thomas completed 140-mile Ironman triathlon just a day after revealing he is HIV positive (pictured above)

The visibly emotional sportsman was supported by parents Yvonne and Barry as he took on the Ironman Wales race in the seaside resort of Tenby in south Wales on Sunday.

The ex-fullback, who came out as gay in 2009, following his divorce from childhood sweetheart Jemma, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with HIV. 

In a video posted on Twitter on Saturday evening, he said: ‘I am living with HIV. Now you have that information that makes me extremely vulnerable, but it does not make me weak.’

There was an outpouring of support on social media following Thomas' announcement. The Duke of Cambridge called him 'courageous as ever'

There was an outpouring of support on social media following Thomas' announcement. The Duke of Cambridge called him 'courageous as ever'

There was an outpouring of support on social media following Thomas’ announcement. The Duke of Cambridge called him ‘courageous as ever’

‘Even though I have been forced to tell you this, I choose to fight, to educate and break the stigma around this subject. And that begins today when I take on the toughest ironman in the world in Tenby, and I push myself physically to the limit,’ he added.  

HIV (human immuno-deficency virus) attacks the body’s immune system. Those diagnosed with the virus once had a bleak prospect. 

However, nowadays it can be fully controlled by drugs which stop it developing into AIDS.

The rugby star compared his condition to ‘living with diabetes or high blood pressure’ and appears to be as fit as ever. 

The virus is now ‘undetectable’ in his system and cannot be passed on providing he continues to take his medication every day.   

Thomas pictured with his husband, Stephen, 56, who does not have HIV

Thomas pictured with his husband, Stephen, 56, who does not have HIV

Thomas pictured with his husband, Stephen, 56, who does not have HIV

Thomas, who retired from rugby in 2011, went public with his HIV status on the eve of the opening of the Rugby World Cup, which starts on Friday. He will appear on ITV as a pundit.

He said he would ‘never forget’ the moment he found out his diagnosis, which came after a ‘routine sexual health test’ in Cardiff.

When told in a ‘matter of fact way’ that he was HIV-positive, Thomas said he broke down. ‘I immediately thought I was going to die,’ he said. 

‘I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph. I wasn’t expecting it at all. Then I was thinking, ‘How long have I got left?’ 

Thomas did not say when he was diagnosed, but revealed that he had to tell a number of former sexual partners as a matter of ‘duty’ so they could get themselves tested too.

 

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