By Dirk Smith
When Gareth Thomas revealed his HIV status a few months ago, he didn’t have much of a choice. Thomas later shared that the impromptu coming out was motivated by a tabloid reporter who outed him as HIV to his parents and sought a comment for their story, before Thomas had a chance to talk to his parents himself. Thomas decided to take control from the reporter, whom he criticized sharply, to reveal his status. Speaking on 5 Live, he shared…
“That person came and took that moment away from me. And my parents will say that they’re fine, because that’s my parents. But I can’t really tell you how they felt because I can’t imagine how they would feel.
“Can you imagine someone coming to your door and saying something so personal and so intrusive to you about the person you would love and protect through anything? Can you imagine how that would feel?”
He added: “[My parents] love me whatever, but I can never have that time back. I can never have that moment back… to sit down with them and be able to explain to them why their son is going to be OK and is going to be able to live through this and live a healthy, normal life.”
Thomas made it clear that revealing his status was against his will, and that he was unable to share the news on his terms because of the reporter’s intrusive actions and the tabloid’s threats to publish the story.
“I haven’t got the money to be able to fight a giant tabloid in court. When they do it they’ll somehow find justification for doing it. They’ll say it’s okay, a family member told us something.”
Despite this, Thomas has used the experience as an opportunity to make a documentary, Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me in which he dives deeper into his life and experiences living with HIV and his experiences in coming to terms with the condition. The documentary also features Thomas working to break down the stigmas, myths and misunderstands of HIV while educating the audience about how modern medicine has made the virus treatable and non-transmittable.
The documentary has been described as emotional and powerful, debuting to critical acclaim and support for Thomas. The documentary concludes *spoiler alert!* with him finishing the Ironman Wales (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run) where he finished in 12 hours and 18 minutes as 413th out of 2039 athletes.
Thomas showed that living with HIV does not make you weak, nor is it a barrier for you to continue working toward achieving your goals. He finished the Ironman only a day after making his initial announcement regarding his status.
Following his announcement and Ironman finish, Thomas received widespread support from his family, friends and people all over the world. Including Sir Elton John and Prince William who shared a message on Instagram…
“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”
Thomas has been a fierce activist for people living with HIV/AIDS and for prevention programs, working with Terence Higgins Trust, which works to provide services related to HIV and sexual health. He is working with Prince Harry and members of the royal family who support and work with Thomas on his effort. Which Thomas says helps to normalize the conversation.
Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me is available to stream on BBC One (UK users only)
Feature Photo by ukhomeoffice / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)