Former Wales rugby captain and Celebrity Big Brother star Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive, saying he wants to “break the stigma” around the condition.
Thomas, a former British and Irish Lions captain, who came out as gay in 2009, will talk about his diagnosis in a BBC Wales documentary titled Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me on Wednesday.
"I am living with HIV,” Thomas said in a video posted to Twitter on Saturday. "Now you have that information that makes me extremely vulnerable, but it does not make me weak. Even though I have been forced to tell you this, I choose to fight, to educate, and break the stigma around this subject.
"And that begins today when I take on the toughest Ironman in the world in Tenby, and I push myself physically to the limit."
Thomas said he went public with his illness after being put "through hell" by blackmailers who threatened to expose his secret. His video has been viewed over 2 million times since being posted.
In a message from the Kensington Palace Twitter account, Prince William expressed support for Thomas: "Courageous as ever – legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth. W"
Princess Diana, Prince William’s mother, was lauded for changing the public perspective on HIV and AIDS when she shook hands with an AIDS patient at a Middlesex Hospital in London on April 19, 1987 — an act which challenged the once-common (but incorrect) belief that HIV or AIDS could be transmitted by touch.
Much of the response to Thomas’s video has been positive.
"But I think when it was all about my sexuality it just seemed like there was more empathy and more understanding because you had more knowledge, because you could turn on the telly and you could see that there was LGBT representation on most platforms."
In 2012 Thomas finished third in Celebrity Big Brother and reached the semi-final of Dancing on Ice the following year. He currently lives near Bridgend with his husband Stephen who he married in 2016.