Harry praised by rugby star Gareth Thomas for raising HIV awareness
8 November 2019, 13:06 | Updated: 8 November 2019, 13:12
The Welsh star said the Duke of Sussex has ‘done so much to normalise HIV testing and fight the stigma across the globe’.
Welsh sports star Gareth Thomas has been praised by the rugby community for his “brave” decision to announce his HIV status as he returned to the pitch to urge the nation to get tested for the virus.
Thomas was joined by the Duke of Sussex, a long-term HIV campaigner, at the ground of Premiership Rugby club Harlequins as he described telling the world about living with HIV as “empowering”.
He praised Harry for publicly getting tested a number of times – famously with superstar Rihanna in 2016 – while the Harlequins players paid tribute to the former Wales captain, saying the rugby community wanted to get behind him and his cause.
Thomas was the highest-profile sportsman in the UK to reveal he was gay when he came out in 2009 and in September he said he was forced to reveal his HIV diagnosis after a tabloid newspaper threatened to publish it.
In recent interviews he said he was driven to suicidal thoughts as a result of his diagnosis but Harry and his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, have praised Thomas for revealing he is HIV positive.
Thomas, who earlier was named as a member of the Terrence Higgins Trust’s new HIV Commission, said: “Going public with living with HIV has been very empowering and I want to help others to show them they don’t need to live in fear and live in shame, because you can still live with HIV and be healthy and live a normal life.
“The support from the royals has been magnificent. And it’s not just for me, it’s to show that we accept people living with HIV and that carries an enormous weight.”
Speaking about his new role with the commission, Thomas said: “This is something that I am unbelievably honoured about, becoming an HIV commissioner with a group of people who plan to end zero new transmissions of HIV in England in the next 10 years, and that’s the first country in the world to do that.”
He added: “I have a little platform, I don’t know how big it is but I know I have a platform, and I understood why there are so many people living in fear, living in shame, because I lived in fear and I lived in shame.”