Gareth Thomas says sharing his HIV status ‘felt much more shameful’ than coming out as gay in rugby

Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas has said revealing his HIV status “felt much more shameful” than coming out as gay in rugby.

Thomas became the first openly gay professional rugby union player when he opened up about his sexuality in 2009.

Last year, he revealed that he is also HIV positive – and said a journalist revealed his status to his parents before he had the chance to do so.

Speaking to The Guardian, Thomas spoke of the fear and misunderstandings he had about HIV when he was first diagnosed.

Gareth Thomas felt like his ‘life was over’ when he was diagnosed with HIV.

“It was an overriding feeling that my life was over,” Thomas said.

“It’s like somebody holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger – how do you explain how that feels?”

The retired rugby player said that everything he knew about HIV when he was diagnosed was “very historical, very past tense and very unfactual”.

It was an overriding feeling that my life was over.

He did not know at the time that antiretroviral medication means people with HIV live long, healthy and happy lives – nor was he aware that effective medication means the virus cannot be passed on through condomless sex.

Thomas also spoke of the devastating moment a newspaper reporter revealed his HIV status to his parents before he had a chance to tell them himself.

His father was approached by the reporter when he and Thomas were in the car together.

“He stuck his head in the window and he said to my father: ‘Do you have any comment about your son having HIV?’ I put the window up and I said to my father: ‘Just drive.'”

The rugby player’s parents thought he was going to die.

The same reporter later turned up at Thomas’ parents’  home where he asked again if they had a comment on his HIV status.

His mother called him in tears, and he was forced to tell his parents the truth.

The rugby player revealed that his parents, like many people, did not understand the medical advancements in HIV treatment and initially thought their son was going to die.

“It was my right to pick the moment to tell my family about this,” he said.

“It wasn’t somebody else’s right to force that moment upon us. I can never pick that moment again. I never had that opportunity and that really p****s me off.”

Despite the challenges, Thomas said he feels “empowered” now that his HIV status is public.