Gareth Thomas hails support of Prince Harry and the Royal Family after revealing HIV diagnosis
Gareth Thomas has hailed the “magnificent” support he has received from the Royal Family since revealing he had been blackmailed into revealing his HIV status. The former Wales rugby captain singled out the Duke of Sussex, who is praised for helping to break down the stigma of HIV by using his “global platform” to help those suffering in silence. Thomas, who recently revealed he had been keeping his HIV positive diagnosis a secret for years, said the Duke’s willingness to get tested in public was an “unbelievably brave” and “bold thing to do”. He was joined by the Duke at the Twickenham Stoop, home of Premiership Rugby club Harlequins on Friday, as he was named an HIV Commissioner with the new HIV Commission, which aims to eradicate transmission of the virus in England by 2030.
The Duke, who has twice publicly taken HIV tests, had previously contacted Thomas to tell him he was “proud” of the way he had shared his news to empower others and the pair have kept in touch. The Duke of Cambridge has also paid tribute to the way he conducted himself, describing the 45-year-old as “courageous” and a “legend” on and off the pitch. Thomas said today that going public with living with HIV had been “very empowering” and admitted he “could never have dreamed” of being at an HIV testing event at a rugby club ten years ago. “The support from the royals has been magnificent,” he added. “And it’s not just for me, it’s to show that we accept people living with HIV and that carries an enormous weight. “Harry having public tests for HIV is incredibly powerful, with his reach, a global reach, is something that will reach the corners of the globe and communities that are marginalised who need support from all of us.”
The Duke was presented with a miniature Harlequins kit for his six-month-old son Archie as the pair posed for photographs ahead of National HIV Testing Week, which runs from November 16-22. He has long advocated the importance of HIV testing. When tested live on Facebook two years ago, to demonstrate how simple it was, the Terrence Higgins Trust reported a five-fold increase in orders for test kits. He was tested again alongside Rihanna, the singer, in Barbados to mark World Aids Day a few months later, in December 2016. In a video released on Twitter in September, Thomas, the former wing for Wales and the Lions, said he had been forced to reveal his status because others were threatening to do so. He said: “I want to share my secret with you. Why? Because it’s mine to tell you. 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.”
His voice almost breaking, Thomas added: “I’m living with HIV. Now you have that information that makes me extremely vulnerable, but it does not make me weak.” The rugby player admitted that he had sobbed in the arms of a doctor, fearing he would die and felt suicidal. But he said he had “chosen to fight to educate and break the stigma” around the virus. He has also revealed that his husband Stephen, whom he met after his diagnosis and married three years ago, does not have HIV. Thomas later said that the Duke of Sussex had texted him out of the blue to tell him he was “proud” of the way he had shared his news to empower others. The HIV Commission was created by the Terrence Higgins Trust and the National AIDS Trust and will be chaired by Dame Inga Beale, former CEO of Lloyd’s of London. The year-long independent commission, backed by the Government, will host a series of community events, a public online consultation and a national call for evidence from those directly impacted by HIV. It will publish its recommendations next spring, which the Government has committed to review. Thomas said he was “unbelievably honoured” to be named an HIV commissioner.