Ex-British Lions captain believed to be first UK sportsman to go public about living with virus

Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas: ‘I’ve been living with this secret for years.’
Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures

Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas has revealed that he is HIV positive.

Mr 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.

He told the Sunday Mirror: “I’ve been living with this secret for years. I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll.

“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.”

The former British Lions captain, 45, who will be a TV pundit in the upcoming Rugby World Cup, said he “broke down” when he got the news of his diagnosis.

He explained: “I went for a routine sexual health test at a private clinic in Cardiff. I didn’t feel ill and thought everything was going to be fine.

“When (the doctor) said those words … I immediately thought I was going to die. I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph. Then I was thinking ‘how long have I got left?”’

The former Cardiff Blues player won 103 caps and scored 41 tries for Wales between 1995 and 2007, and he is 13th on the all-time international test try-scoring list.

Last November, he was attacked in Cardiff city centre in a homophobic hate crime, but asked South Wales police to deal with the 16-year-old assailant by way of restorative justice.

The sportsman now takes one tablet containing four medications each day, and doctors have said his condition is under control to the point that it is considered “undetectable” and cannot be passed on.

Mr Thomas said that his partner – Stephen – who he met after his diagnosis and married three years ago, does not have HIV.

He said he hopes that his openness will help end the stigma around condition, adding: “I’m speaking out because I want to help others and make a difference. I hope me speaking out about my diagnosis will help a lot of people.”