Gareth Thomas talks about ‘wave of support’ following HIV diagnosis


Gareth Thomas said he received positive messages from Prince Harry, Prince William and Jeremy Corbyn after he revealed he is HIV positive in 2019. 

The former rugby player, 46, appeared on The Graham Norton Show on Friday to discuss his journey to self-empowerment and breaking the stigma surrounding the virus. 

He admitted he ‘felt out of control,’ when he first received his diagnosis, but asserts he now ‘has control of the narrative’ and has since received a ‘wave of support.’

Support: Gareth Thomas said he received positive messages from Prince Harry, Prince William and Jeremy Corbyn after he revealed he is HIV positive in 2019

Gareth, also known as Alfie, completed the Ironman triathlon in September 2019 to raise awareness surrounding the virus as the day before, he publicly announced he is HIV positive.

The rugby ace, who came out as gay in 2009, said it was his husband, Ian Baum, who told him during the endurance race that Labour MP Jeremy, 71, had messaged him. 

He recalled: ‘The night before I revealed that I was HIV positive and I had no idea what the reaction would be. 

‘Halfway round I saw my husband and he said, it’s all fine, Jeremy Corbyn has messaged you.” Genuinely, I had messages from Prince William and Prince Harry, and he told me Jeremy Corbyn had said, “hello!”

Admiration: The rugby star, 46, appeared on The Graham Norton Show on Friday to discuss breaking the stigma surrounding HIV after receiving kind words from the Duke Of Sussex, 36 (pictured in 2019)

Admiration: The rugby star, 46, appeared on The Graham Norton Show on Friday to discuss breaking the stigma surrounding HIV after receiving kind words from the Duke Of Sussex, 36 (pictured in 2019)

‘When I got to the end of the marathon, I turned the corner and the energy and support meant I couldn’t breathe. 

‘I have led rugby teams out in the biggest games I ever dreamt of doing and never in my life have I experienced such a wave of support.’

At the time, Prince Harry, 36, penned on social media: ‘Gareth, you are an absolute legend! 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.

‘We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you. H’

Ironman: He admitted he 'felt out of control,' when he first received his diagnosis, but asserts he now 'has control of the narrative' and has since received a 'wave of support'

Ironman: He admitted he ‘felt out of control,’ when he first received his diagnosis, but asserts he now ‘has control of the narrative’ and has since received a ‘wave of support’ 

Applause: After publicly disclosing he has HIV ahead of his Ironman triathlon in Pembrokeshire, Prince Harry penned a lengthy message on Instagram praising the star

Applause: After publicly disclosing he has HIV ahead of his Ironman triathlon in Pembrokeshire, Prince Harry penned a lengthy message on Instagram praising the star 

Jeremy posted his supportive reaction to Twitter and said: ‘Gareth Thomas has again shown enormous strength in declaring himself HIV positive. A role model challenging stigma and prejudice. His example offers hope and resolve to others. Solidarity.’

Meanwhile Prince William, 38, wrote online: ‘Courageous as ever – legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth. W’. 

While talking on The Graham Norton show about his new book, Stronger, he discussed the negativity and shame he’s had to deal with following his medical diagnosis. 

He said: ‘It is very much built around stigma and misunderstanding. The narrative is around the pressure applied on me to reveal something that, even to this day, I feel I shouldn’t have had to, which was the fact I was living with HIV. 

Brave: The former Wales captain, who won 100 caps for his country, was commended for showing 'enormous strength' by Jeremy, 71

Brave: The former Wales captain, who won 100 caps for his country, was commended for showing ‘enormous strength’ by Jeremy, 71

Hero: Prince William, 38, also showed solidarity as he praised Gareth for being 'courageous as ever' and a 'legend' on and off the pitch

Hero: Prince William, 38, also showed solidarity as he praised Gareth for being ‘courageous as ever’ and a ‘legend’ on and off the pitch

Looking ahead: Gareth previously admitted he was threatened by blackmailers who wanted to expose his HIV diagnosis but said he tries not to focus his energy on 'being angry with them' (pictured in 2007 with Prince William)

Looking ahead: Gareth previously admitted he was threatened by blackmailers who wanted to expose his HIV diagnosis but said he tries not to focus his energy on ‘being angry with them’ (pictured in 2007 with Prince William)

‘I felt out of control, so I decided to take control because people wanted to tell a story about me where I had no input to that story. I had to take control of the narrative to protect me and my family.’

The former Wales captain, who won 100 caps for his country, previously admitted he was threatened by blackmailers who wanted to expose his HIV diagnosis.

When asked if he still holds any resentment or animosity towards those individuals, he added: ‘I have learnt that me being angry with them is me still giving them energy, kind of like adding oxygen to the fact that they were ever in existence.’

If you have been affected by this story or need HIV support, you can call the Terrence Higgins Trust on 0808 802 1221 or visit https://www.tht.org.uk/ 

Honest: While talking on The Graham Norton show about his new book, Stronger, he discussed the negativity and shame he's had to deal with following his diagnosis

Honest: While talking on The Graham Norton show about his new book, Stronger, he discussed the negativity and shame he’s had to deal with following his diagnosis

Inner strength: He said on the chat show: 'I felt out of control, so I decided to take control because people wanted to tell a story about me where I had no input to that story'

Inner strength: He said on the chat show: ‘I felt out of control, so I decided to take control because people wanted to tell a story about me where I had no input to that story’

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