Prince Harry calls Gareth Thomas an ‘absolute legend’ as the pair announce plans to fight HIV stigma

Prince Harry and Gareth Thomas

Prince Harry, Prince William and Elton John sent touching messages to retired rugby player Gareth Thomas, who was “forced” to announce that he is living with HIV over the weekend.

Prince Harry said that Thomas was “an absolute legend” for opening up about his HIV status.

“In sharing your story of being HIV+, you are saving lives and shattering stigma, by showing you can be strong and resilient while living with HIV,” Harry wrote on his Sussex Royal Instagram account on Sunday (September 15).

“We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you.”

Thomas revealed on Saturday (September 14) that he has been living with HIV for the past few years. He said that he was compelled to tell the public after “evils” threatened to out him.

“I want to share my secret with you, because it’s mine to tell you,” he said in a moving video post to Twitter.

“Not the evils that make my life hell, threatening to tell you before I do. And because I believe in you, and I trust you.”

Hours after making the announcement, Thomas competed in the gruelling IronMan Wales triathlon, cheered on by his husband of three years Stephen.

Gareth Thomas and Prince Harry to fight HIV stigma

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Thomas recalled finding out that he had contracted HIV during a routine sexual health check before he met Stephen, who is not living with HIV.

Gareth Thomas with cheering with his arms outstretched

Gareth Thomas at the Ironman Wales finishing line. (Getty)

“I thought that if people knew about me being HIV positive they wouldn’t want to breathe the same air as me, they wouldn’t want to drink from the same cup as me and if I walked into a coffee shop everyone would just walk out because they’d be so scared of being infected by me,” he said.

It is precisely this stigma that Thomas now hopes to help break by working together with Prince Harry.

I thought that if I walked into a coffee shop everyone would just walk out because they’d be so scared of being infected by me.

“He has already done a lot of great work,” Thomas said.

“We are planning to work together now. To do something with him will be really powerful.”

The pair are currently discussing how and when they will team up with the HIV charity The Terrence Higgins Trust.

Prince William and Elton John back Gareth Thomas

Harry’s brother, Prince William also sent Thomas a public show of support.

“Courageous as ever—legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth,” William tweeted.

The former Welsh rugby captain told the Mirror how he had also received a private message from Sir Elton John.

“He’s brilliant. He rang me the other day while I was on the M4 and said ‘Gareth, it’s Elton’,” Thomas said.

“I had to pull the car over.

“We had a massively supportive chat about me speaking out and he supports my reasoning and was nothing but positive.

“He said ‘What you’re doing is a brilliant thing. It’s really brave of you. I’ll support you all the way’.”