Wales legend Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive.
The ex-British and Irish Lion is due to talk about his diagnosis in a BBC Wales documentary on Wednesday.
It shows Thomas’s anxiety and having to consult legal representatives after a tabloid newspaper found out about his HIV status. It led to journalists going to his parents’ home.
The legend says he has kept the diagnosis a secret for years since it was revealed to him during a routine health check. He had no idea the diagnosis was coming and described it as “being hit by a 300-mile-an-hour train without expecting it”.
Gareth, who has 100 caps for Wales and is widely known as Alfie, says of his diagnosis: “I’ve been living with this secret for years. I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll.
“I had a fear people would judge me and treat me like a leper because of a lack of knowledge. I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal. I thought about driving off a cliff.
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Advances in medicine now allow people who are HIV positive to live long healthy lives. With effective treatment, the virus cannot be passed on.
Other than waking at 0600 to take a single pill every day and visiting the hospital for blood tests every six months, the condition has little impact day-to-day life for Thomas.
“To me, wanting to die was just a natural thought and felt like the easier way out, but you have to confront things. And having a strong support system and the personal strength and experience of overcoming those emotions got me through it.
“Many people live in fear and shame of having HIV, but I refuse to be one of them now. We need to break the stigma once and for all.
“I’m speaking out because I want to help others and make a difference.”