UK-based media source, The Independent, reports that former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive. The revered sports figure made headlines a few years back for coming out as gay at the height of his career and becoming a celebrated advocate for LGBT acceptance in professional sports.
Thomas’ decision to go public with his HIV status comes after a bittersweet emotional struggle in dealing with the diagnosis. Thomas is candid in sharing that it was completely unexpected when he received the news, which occurred in 2009 during a routine sexual health doctor’s visit.
Being of age to recall the frightening early 1980s stages of the AIDS epidemic, Thomas was devastated by the news. It caused him depression and he even became suicidal. At one of his darkest points, he explains that keeping this a secret ultimately ate away at his mental state. Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, he stated:
“I’ve been living with this secret for years. I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll.”
Thomas says he worried a lot about the pervasive stigma and public attitudes about HIV. He pondered how much time left he had to live, and he felt his diagnosis would hinder his career as a sportsman. Thankfully, he soon came to realize that unlike decades ago, HIV infection today is not a death sentence, and it can be managed successfully through the new generation of medications that help to suppress the virus. Through such treatments, today, Thomas’ HIV levels are undetectable.
Like so many in modern times who are thriving despite their positive HIV status, Thomas is living a productive life and recently landed a spot as a TV pundit in the upcoming Rugby World Cup. His advocacy work for LGBT acceptance in sports becomes far more personal now as he fully lives in his truth without shame or fear.