Prince Harry 'appalled' friend Gareth Thomas was forced to share HIV news

Gareth Thomas. Image file

Gareth Thomas. Image file

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has spoken about the "shame" and "fear" he felt keeping his condition secret before revealing the diagnosis on Saturday night.

His example offers hope and resolve to others.

High-profile figures, fellow sportspeople, and celebrities took to social media to lend their support to Thomas after he made the announcement, including Prince Harry, the Duke of Cambridge, and Welsh rugby star Shane Williams. "You have our support Gareth", William wrote, signing the message with a W. "It's sick and I've been through hell", Thomas told the Sunday Mirror.

"It put me in the darkest place ever".

"The stigma still does exist and I think it takes people like Gareth to battle and remove that stigma", says the 20-year-old.

This retired welsh rugby player, father, husband, role model - today revealed he is HIV positive. I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph.

George says that, like Gareth, he's "had some incredibly hateful things [said] about me online".

Thomas admitted revealing the diagnosis was similar to his experiences when he came out as gay because of "the fear, the hiding, the secrecy; the not knowing how people are going to react".

He adds that it's "not necessarily what it's doing to us physically" which is an issue - in fact, he says treatment for the virus is quite simple.

"That has all changed but what hasn't changed is the stigma", he told the Guardian. 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.

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"I've been threatened by people who said they would give away my secret".

"When I went back in, I sat down on a chair next to a doctor's bench. Gareth's disclosure, his decision to tell his story, is huge". "He started at 7am. Up until this event he couldn't swim, so he's extraordinarily tenacious".

He approached the Trust six months ago asking it to take part in a BBC Wales documentary which is due to be screened on Wednesday.

"We have become really good friends", said Green. "We are very lucky to have someone like Gareth advocating for people living with HIV".

Thomas explains his motivation in a short, powerful clip from the documentary.

"I was being blackmailed and in my mind I thought you only get blackmailed for something really bad, which compounded the feeling of shame". And by doing that ...

And Nigel Owens, the first professional rugby referee to come out as gay, said: "Stay strong my friend and as always well done for being so fearless and speak about these important issues that affect so many and will help even more".

"And in terms of the mental health side, it was just about educating myself - and speaking out if you need help". "I was one of the ignorant ones, I will be honest, like so many people". At one point he had to consult lawyers after a tabloid newspaper found out about his HIV status and journalists went to his parents' home.

'Even though I have been forced to tell you this, I choose to fight, to educate and break the stigma around this subject.

Thomas's revelation comes just over a week before Wales play their first World Cup match against Georgia in Japan, where the former skipper will work as a pundit for British broadcaster ITV.

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