Watch: Rugby Legend Gareth Thomas Comes Out as HIV-Positive

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday September 16, 2019

Ten years ago, Gareth Thomas, a star rugby player who hails from Wales, made international headlines when he came out as gay. Now Thomas has come out again - as HIV-positive.

Thomas compared the disclosure of his HIV status to emerging from the closet, the BBC reported, saying that "the fear, the hiding, the secrecy, the not knowing how people are going to react" were common elements to both. But he said that he was moving forward with the announcement because "evil" people had threatened to tell the world without his consent.

The disclosure coincided with a demonstration of the 45-year-old athlete's exceptional physical condition; Thomas completed an Ironman event in Wales, taking 12 hours and 18 minutes to accomplish the feat, the BBC reported in a separate article.

Thomas addressed lingering stigma and misinformation about living with HIV, telling the media, "The overriding question that everybody said to me - the first question everyone says to me when I tell them I'm living with HIV - is 'Are you going to be OK?'

"And it's a really compassionate question to ask," Thomas continued. "But - this is meant the nicest way possible - it's a really uneducated question."

Thanks to modern antiretroviral treatment regimens, people living with HIV can and do live full, healthy lives. Moreover, those on an effective regimen do not pass the virus on to others.

But Thomas explained, "It's not like I blame people for not knowing this."

Added the athlete, "When I first found out that I was going to have to live with HIV, the first thing I thought was straight away: I was going to die."

Thomas has proved to be a fount of strength and compassion. Late last year, after he was the target of a homophobic attack by a 16-year-old perpetrator, Thomas requested that the youth be offered the chance of restorative justice rather than incarcerated for his act of violence.

Thomas is also the author of a memoir, "Proud," in which he describes his struggle with internalized homophobia and his journey toward a life of authenticity.

Coming out a second time, and facing lingering stigma around HIV, may have seemed daunting, but Thomas has received widespread support, including a message from Prince Harry.

Thomas did an emotional interview with the BBC in which he said, "I'm trying to educate and break the stigma for everybody, which includes me in that everybody."

Said Thomas, "I want to empower so many other people who are in exactly the same position as me, and probably 10 times worse."

Watch Thomas' interview below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.