Rugby legend Gareth Thomas, 45, made headlines around the world over the weekend when he revealed he’s living with HIV. He said he was forced to come out after being threatened by a journalist to reveal his story.
The gay, former player has made a documentary with the BBC about his condition, to be aired this week. The broadcaster has posted some clips to social media.
In the one below, HIV expert Professor Chloe Orkin explains to Thomas how treatment now ensures people living with HIV can expect the same lifespan as those without the virus.
Please take 3 minutes out of your life to watch Professor Chloe Orkin (@profchloeorkin) assure Gareth Thomas that there is zero risk of #HIV transmission, sexually or casually, when #undetectable.
Then share it. #UequalsU pic.twitter.com/5U55om2jr5
— Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson) September 17, 2019
She goes on to explain how if someone is on treatment and undetectable, there is zero risk of them passing the virus on through sex, even if no condom is used. This is known as Undetectable = Untransmissable, or U=U.
As she explains, the significance of U=U is that, “people can believe and let go of that sense that they are somehow infectious or can harm other people, and sometimes when I tell people U=U, they cry. And I see people getting well, and I see people having children, young women having babies, and I see people getting their lives back.”
Thomas is visibly moved as this sinks in. He goes on to ask if this applies to his interactions with friends and family: activities such as sharing a cup, tending a wound or “other things that other people in society still would fear if they knew you had HIV.”
Professor Orkin confirms there is “zero risk of transmission” if someone is undetectable.
She then goes on to tell Thomas his speaking out about his status is hugely important. It will help to promote the message that U=U, particularly as the UK government has yet to fund any large, public health campaign to promote this information.
On hearing this, Thomas wells up and struggles to control his emotions, saying, “I just get scared. I just get scared, that’s all.”
Thomas gave another emotional interview earlier in the week to the This Morning TV show. In it, he revealed why he hadn’t chosen to tell friends and family about his diagnosis sooner.
A role model is authentic and open. A role model steps up to help others, even if it makes them feel uncomfortable sometimes. @gareththomas14 embodied that role model behaviour way before this week, but this video….wow. Thank you Gareth. ???????pic.twitter.com/NO7ujP99iR
— WayneDavid81 (@WayneDavid81) September 17, 2019
“I’ve got an amazing family and an amazing group of friends and the people I chose not to tell, it was because I chose to protect them.
“I felt that if I told them, they’re going to be afraid of what’s going to happen to me, so I didn’t want to add anybody’s worries … and I didn’t want people to treat me differently.
“Because I’m not ill, and I wasn’t ill, but when people then find out, all of a sudden, people look at you different or they treat you different, or they speak to you different, or they act different.
“I didn’t want people to know because I didn’t want my brother to potentially … be afraid of me cuddling my niece,” he says breaking down.
“Because they didn’t know [about modern HIV treatment], I didn’t want to scare everybody. I wanted to protect everybody, and that’s why I chose not to tell people.”
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Thomas revealed that it was because a journalist approached his parents and asked them about his HIV status that he felt forced to come out.
“Imagine what position that puts me in. I can never, ever, ever have that moment back with my mother and father of sitting down and telling them something so personal to me.
“They took that right away from me.
“I’m lucky that I have parents who love me and will support me through anything, but I deserved to have that moment with them.”
Since revealing his status, Thomas has been met with overwhelming support, including from Britain’s royal family. Both Princes William and Harry posted supportive message for Thomas, with Harry calling him an “absolute legend” and William saying, “I and millions stand with you.”