Strong support after Gareth Thomas reveals HIV positive status

By Padraig Collins, PA

Former Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas has received strong support after revealing he is HIV positive.

Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus, and has revealed that he was driven to suicidal thoughts as a result of his diagnosis.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called him a “role model” and referee Nigel Owens said Thomas was “brave”.

Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust HIV charity, said Thomas’s diagnosis may help change public attitudes.

“I’m very proud to call Gareth Thomas a friend. Gareth is proof that an HIV diagnosis shouldn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do – whatever that is.

“I hope that by speaking publicly about this Gareth will transform attitudes towards HIV that are all too often stuck in the 1980s.”

Mr Green said improving treatment “means that people living with HIV like Gareth now live long healthy lives”.

“This is exactly the kind of information Gareth wants to get out there to challenge the stigma that still surrounds this virus.”

Mr Green said that Thomas blazed a trail by being the first rugby player to come out as gay and “has done so much to encourage inclusion and diversity within the sport”.

He added: “Now he is doing that once again with HIV and taking on the challenge of a lifetime in Ironman Wales to show that this virus doesn’t need to be a barrier when you’re diagnosed and accessing treatment.”

Many people used social media to show their support for Thomas after he told his story to the Sunday Mirror.

Mr Corbyn said: “Gareth Thomas has again shown enormous strength in declaring himself HIV positive.

“A role model challenging stigma and prejudice.”

And Mr Owens said: “Stay strong my friend and as always well done for being so brave and speak about these important issues that affect so many and will help even more.”

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123, or visit a local Samaritans branch.