Gareth Thomas: ‘I will be a voice for people with HIV. I won’t be derailed’

Gareth Thomas isn’t certain in which to begin. Or, rather, if he need to even attempt to. Mum, Yvonne, warned against it before he left Bridgend yesterday. The publicist now soaring in earshot seems unconvinced. Yet right here the 2 people are on a wintery March morning: sitting in a west London motel lobby, to speak about a dating he changed into in 10 years ago. His sex life, particularly. In how tons detail stays unsure.

Thomas retired from rugby in 2011, however through punditry, activism and fact TV, the previous Wales global – recently made a CBE – has maintained a major public presence. As an LGBTQ+ pioneer, sporting massive and HIV suggest extraordinaire, he’s a countrywide hero in Wales and beyond. In secret, but, Thomas has been going through years of complex prison wrangling, consisting of a criminal research. In a lately settled civil case, an ex-associate – Ian Baum – alleged that Thomas “deceptively” transmitted HIV to him a decade ago. Only in August 2022 did a number of the information become public. That wasn’t Thomas’s name – he become given six hours’ observe.Until now, he hasn’t spoken about the case in any element. “But now I suppose that the best way to transport forward is to try to address positive things, wherein I can, simply the as soon as. To draw a line and move on. And even as it’s not that I need to keep away from something…” His tattooed palms dance nervously. “For me, for my husband, my dad and mom, my stepdaughter, step-grandson – and financially, for my career – I can’t create extra legal issues. And I don’t need to, both. I want to move forward.” He sounds resolute. “But I will now not be silenced, or be discriminated against. It’s no longer about me – what this represents is what’s crucial.”

It’s alleged that Thomas lied to his ex about his HIV popularity in 2014 and as a end result “recklessly” exceeded the virus on. This January, the parties agreed to a settlement in a private harm case, with Thomas paying his accuser £75,000, plus costs. Through all of it, Thomas’s function has remained consistent. As he stated in a statement once the agreement turned into reached: “This isn’t an admission of liability or guilt. I maintain my innocence in all of the meritless allegations.” At each degree, the HIV organizations Thomas works with have stood along him.The incidents had been scary, yes. “But worse changed into it confirmed how all this bigotry and hatred had just been bubbling underneath the floor.”
Polling observed 74% of British adults understand Thomas has spoken about living with HIV. “It manner I’m described by using this diagnosis, greater than every person else in the united states. I am the definition of HIV to a number of humans. So, I should do something positive about that definition. To noticeably alternate it. To educate people, and combat stigma. It additionally approach I must try to respond to the allegations, which compound stigma and damage this community.”

Before we get to that, even though, he desires to talk approximately his own HIV story.

Thomas is no stranger to publicly speaking approximately regions of his life he might have favored to hold non-public. For the first 15 years of his rugby career, he was recognised in general for his gambling prowess – one of the global’s greatest attempt-scorers and captain for each the Welsh crew and the British & Irish Lions. One of Cymru’s greatest. Then, in December 2009, he publicly introduced he became homosexual, the primary professional rugby union player to achieve this. Press intrusion performed a part. “Journalists had started out to knock on my elderly neighbours’ doors asking if they’d visible ‘atypical guys’ visiting. But it became time to see if I may want to nevertheless play rugby, nevertheless be humorous, a pacesetter and friend ‘authentically’. I needed to recognize the real me.” Within a yr he’d been voted the maximum influential gay character within the Independent on Sunday Pink List, and obtained Stonewall’s Hero of the Year award.

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