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TWITTER / BBC

Former Welsh Rugby captain Gareth Thomas has given his first live interview since revealing that he is HIV positive.

Thomas is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the condition, revealing his diagnosis last week on Twitter.

In the Twitter video, Thomas mentioned that he had been “forced” to reveal this information. But in his latest interview for BBC 5 Live, the rugby star has revealed more disturbing details about the press’s role in his decision to reveal his diagnosis.

Shockingly, Thomas claims that a journalist actually told his parents that he is HIV positive and a newspaper were threatening to publish the story if he didn’t go public.

He told the BBC:

I can never have that moment back, to sit down with them and explain to them why their son is going to be okay and is going to be able to live through this and live a healthy, normal life. They took that away from me.

I can’t imagine how they would feel?

Thomas continued by saying his parents are supporting him and believe in him.

In response to Thomas’s interview, Ian Green, Chief Executive of HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, told indy100:

The decision to talk openly about your HIV status is a deeply personal one and should not be taken away or ever, ever used as a threat.

Threatening to reveal someone’s HIV status, under any circumstances, is entirely wrong. What other health condition would be used as blackmail against someone? And we know this isn’t something which only happens to those in the public eye.

Gareth has taken the courageous decision to announce he is living with HIV and on his terms. He is showing the world that HIV will not stop him living life to the very fullest.

In just over 72 hours he has smashed public misconceptions about what it means to be living with HIV in 2019. I am incredibly proud to call him a friend and I know he will go on to further challenge that stigma and discrimination.

Thomas will appear in the TV programme, Gareth Thomas: HIV and me, on 18 September. It was made in collaboration with Terrence Higgins Trust.

Sexual health activist Greg Owen, founder of iwantprepnow.co.uk – a campaign to increase the availability of HIV treatment and prevention medication PrEP – also condemned the behaviour of journalists. As someone living with HIV, he told indy100:

I had a very different experience from Gareth. I announced my HIV positive status at an event and on social media the evening after I found out. That was my choice. I knew I was going to be OK. I knew I would be supported and that I could start medication straight away, stay healthy and become undetectable which means I can’t pass on HIV.

Gareth didn’t get to make that choice and I can understand that he feels robbed of that very personal and private moment with his parents. Not only is this scenario unfair and reprehensible, it’s potentially dangerous.

People react to a HIV diagnosis in very different ways. It’s often emotionally and mentally draining. Uninvited interference from a third party can be hugely detrimental to a person who might already feel incredibly vulnerable.

It’s heartening to watch Gareth turn this around and rise above it. Showing the world that HIV isn’t going to limit him and that he has the capacity to forgive. We can all respect that.

Twitter was flooded with support for Thomas, with many journalists condemning the reprehensible actions of those involved in this situation.

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