Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas has revealed he has been suffering from HIV for ‘years’ and that the impact of hiding his secret left him contemplating suicide.
Thomas, 45, retired from playing rugby retired in 2011 having won 100 international caps for Wales.
‘I’ve been living with this secret for years. I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll, he told the Sunday Mirror.
Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas has confirmed from HIV and has kept it a secret for years
The Wales captain came out as gay in 2009. He confirmed that his husband Stephen, who he met after being diagnosed, does not have the virus.
‘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.
‘To me, wanting to die was just a natural thought and felt like the easier way out, but you have to confront things. And having a strong support system and the personal strength and experience of overcoming those emotions got me through it.
Thomas played 100 times during his illustrious career before he retired from the game in 2011
Gareth married his childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2002 but came out as gay in 2009
GARETH THOMAS FACTFILE
– Born July 25, 1974 (Bridgend, Wales)
– Made his international for Wales in 1995 against Japan
– Made 100 appearances for Wales and also captained the British and Irish Lions rugby side
– Married childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2002
– Came out as gay in 2009, the first major UK rugby star to do so
– Retired from rugby in 2011
– Appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2012 where he came third
Thomas is the first major UK sports star to confirm a diagnosis of HIV.
The former Celebrity Big Brother star revealed he went for a routine sexual health check up when he found out the news.
Speaking about his reaction to being told, the former British and Irish Lions Captain said: ‘When she said those words I broke down. I was in such a state. I immediately thought I was going to die. 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?’ I was distraught.’
The former rugby star was left in tears and shock as he was then instructed to go to Cardiff Royal Infirmary straight away to begin his treatment.
Worse was to follow for Thomas when he had to reveal his diagnosis to his former lovers so that they could also be tested.
The ex-rugby player says he considered committing suicide after learning of his diagnosis
WHAT IS HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus which attacksthe immune system—the body’s defence against diseases.
HIV stays in the body for life, but treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. Without medication people with HIV can develop AIDS.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection, when the immune system can no longer fight infections.
Someone with AIDS has both HIV and at least one of a specific list of ‘AIDS-defining’ diseases, which include tuberculosis, pneumonia and some types of cancer.
AIDS is life threatening, but if HIV is caught early and is treated, it will not lead to AIDS. If HIV is caught late, it can lead to more complications and could ultimately lead to AIDS. That is why it is so important to get tested early if you have been at risk of HIV, as it will mean that you can access treatment that will prevent you ever getting AIDS.
Source: The National Aids Trust
He admits he is ‘scared’ at the prospect of speaking publicly about his condition but says he has done so in order to help tackle the stigma around it.
There were around 101,000 people living with HIV in the UK, according to the National Aids Trust (NAT).
‘Alfie’, as he is affectionately known, will also feature in the BBC documentary titled: Gareth Thomas: HIV and ME, which will air on BBC One on Wednesday September 18 at 9pm.
Explaining his decision to tell his story on camera he said: ‘The reason I’m doing this is because, firstly, I want to remember what it’s like to live again. I want to remember what it’s like to feel free. And by doing that, I want to empower so many other people who are in exactly the same position as me – and probably ten times worse – to be able to feel free again. And to do that I have to, I have to educate myself. I have to be strong. I have to be, at the end of it, a completely different person to the person I am now.
‘I think what I want to learn is that I’ve got HIV – and it’s OK. That’s what I want to learn. More than anything.’