In his first studio interview since he came out publicly about living with HIV, an emotional Gareth Thomas has told how Prince Harry immediately offered his support, upon hearing of the Welsh rugby star’s diagnosis.
Speaking on ITV’s Loose Women on Tuesday, Thomas said he was contacted by the prince straight away.
‘He offered support – not just for me – he said, ‘Are your mum and dad ok? Is your husband ok?, Is your step-daughter ok?’
Speaking on ITV’s Loose Women on Tuesday, Thomas said he was contacted by Prince Harry straight away. ‘He offered support – not just for me – he said, ‘Are your mum and dad ok? Is your husband ok?, Is your step-daughter ok?’
The Duke of Sussex appears alongside Gareth Thomas in a new film released by the Terrence Higgins Trust to mark national HIV Testing Week.
In the video, filmed in the stands at the Twickenham Stoop – home of Premiership Rugby club Harlequins, Thomas told Harry that the moment he received his HIV diagnosis is what inspired him to educate others about the realities of the virus.
During their interview, the duke praised Thomas.
He added: ‘I believe in what you’re doing, it’s amazing.’
The duke and Thomas also discussed how the rugby community can help reduce the stigma by calling on rugby players to be tested and know their status to help normalise HIV testing.
Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus.
Speaking of getting his test results, Thomas told Loose Women on Tuesday about his initial feelings of isolation, which had turned to a ‘free feeling’ of having nothing to hide, as he vows to educate people on the diagnosis.
Earlier this month The Duke of Sussex appeared alongside Gareth Thomas in a new film released by the Terrence Higgins Trust to mark national HIV Testing Week (pictured)
‘I think the moment I was told, the one thing I remember, do you know sometimes when you’re standing on a train platform and the train doesn’t stop and you’ve got your back to it and this train goes back and you get this moment of fear – I just remember feeling like that and feeling numb and this overriding feeling of isolation, as well and a realisation I’d have to live a life of isolation.’
He said that he’d been to a private clinic to be tested and when he tested positive he was told to go to hospital where he thought he would be told he only had a few years left to live.
‘On the drive from the private clinic to the hospital was a thought that when I got to hospital they’ll give me … 5 maybe 8 years left to live. Then you fast-forward again and then you think how am I going to tell everybody this? My parents, or my brothers, my nieces that I’m not going to around anymore.’
‘I thought I was educated about HIV and I thought I was educated about Aids,’ he added.
‘The only thing I ever remember seeing or being told about it was this horrific advert on the television, you died from it. At the time when there wasn’t medication to suppress HIV then it was needed because people were actually dying. Medicine moved on yet we never got told. People were being diagnosed with HIV, were living in the stigma that everybody else around them would feel that by touching somebody or drinking from the same cup or using the same knife and fork or through blood or through sex that they were going to be able to transmit it. So not only do you feel this sense of isolation, you actually feel kind of like a leper, like you’re going to be left out of society for fear. I was a self-stigmatised person.’
During their interview, the duke praised Thomas and said that what he was doing was ‘amazing’. He added: ‘I believe in what you’re doing, it’s amazing’
He also spoke candidly about how his parents reacted upon hearing the news from a journalist.
‘I think, when I was told that my parents knew that I had HIV and I hadn’t had the opportunity to tell them… I’d never chosen to tell them, I’m allowed a private life and I don’t want to worry my parents. I love my parents more than anything. I didn’t want to worry them and think that I’m going to die like I thought.
Having that moment taken away from me and then having to sit down with my parents and then try and explain to them while they’re in shock, fear, angry… there’s moments you wait to tell people these precious secrets and this wasn’t the time. I had to try and calm them all down and try and get them to understand what living with HIV was,’ Thomas said.
He went to explain that he had to learn to accept the diagnosis himself.
‘What I realised I then had to do was I had to take control. To have power you have to have knowledge. So I made sure. I had been told that I was undetectable, that I couldn’t pass it on so I did my own research. I spoke to other people, I spoke to my doctor, I listened to my doctor, I realised through having all this knowledge I’m ok with it, I’m ok. Now what I have to do is, I felt, educate everybody else so everybody else would be OK. Not for me. This is bigger than me… I wanted to create environments that people wouldn’t be stigmatised,’ he added.
He went on to explain to Loose Women that he takes one tablet a day.
Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus. Speaking of getting his test results, Thomas told Loose Women (pictured above) on Tuesday about his initial feelings of isolation, which had turned to a ‘free feeling’ of having nothing to hide, as he vows to educate people on the diagnosis
‘I have a husband who is HIV negative. There is no way on this planet that I could transmit HIV to my husband. It’s really easy to educate but it’s really hard to re-educate people … To try and get people to un-think these thoughts and plant new ones in their brain is really difficult.’
He added: ‘We need to also break the stigma of getting tested. People are fearful of being tested.’
He added: ‘I have realised kind of what it’s like to be, a moment of thinking you’re going to die. It takes that sometimes to realise how precious life is.’
New statistics from Public Health England estimate that around one in 14 people living with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed – while 43% of people diagnosed last year were diagnosed late, which is after damage to the immune system has already begun.
The Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV charity, said that was why testing for HIV was so important because someone diagnosed early and accessing treatment – like Thomas – has the same life expectancy as anyone else.
Access to effective HIV treatment also ensures that the virus cannot be passed on, it added.