Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas has come forward to announce that he’s been living with HIV, and keeping the secret has been stressful over the years.
The Daily Mail reported that — just a day after telling the world about his health status — Thomas, 45 was photographed participating in an Iron Man competition in his native Wales. The rugby giant received messages of support from family and friends, including his husband, Stephen, but most notably was a tweet from Prince William.
It was on Twitter that Thomas shared his HIV status with the world, and on the Kensington Palace account, Prince William retweeted it, and shared his own message of support.
“Courageous as ever — legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth. W”
Thomas, who is known by the nickname Alfie, came out as gay in 2009. He says he was scared to reveal his status in the past for fear that he would be treated “like a leper.” But he made the decision to be frank with his fans as he says he’s “fitter now than when he played rugby.”
Thomas is the first major British athlete to reveal that he is living with HIV and he thought it was critical to show that he is indeed living by participating in the three-part marathon.
Thomas explained that he was trying to publicly shake the stigma of HIV as being debilitating by swimming, bike riding, and running in the Welsh Iron Man Challenge.
“We need to break the stigma once and for all. I’m speaking out because I want to help others and make a difference.”
Spectators were in full support of Thomas, cheering for him from the sidelines. Adam Davies, who showed up to watch, said that the rugby star looked to be in determined “sports mode.”
“I only found out about his illness when I arrived here at six this morning. What a super hero this bloke is. It looks to me like he’s sending a message out to the world about living with HIV.”
In the United States, the highest-profile HIV confession came from actor Charlie Sheen, and before him, from basketball great Magic Johnson, shared The Inquisitr. Both Americans have been living with the diagnosis for years and seem to be doing well.
But Sheen has faced legal and financial problems in the years that followed his health status admission, as past partners have come forward to say that they were intimate with him without knowing he was HIV positive at the time.