Prince Harry and William praise Gareth Thomas after he reveals HIV diagnosis

Sabrina Barr
Getty Images

The Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge have praised Gareth Thomas after the former Welsh rugby captain revealed he is living with HIV.

On Saturday night, Thomas shared a video on Twitter in which he spoke about living with HIV for the first time, explaining that blackmailers had threatened to reveal his diagnosis.

“I choose to fight to educate and break the stigma around this subject, and that begins today, when I take on the toughest Ironman in the world in Tenby and I push myself physically to the limit,” Thomas said in the video.

In a message shared on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official Instagram account, Prince Harry commended the former professional rugby player, describing him as “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,” Prince Harry stated in the caption, which accompanied a photograph of Thomas.

“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.”

Prince William also shared a message of support for Thomas on the official Twitter account for Kensington Palace.

“Courageous as ever – legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth,” Prince William tweeted.

Thomas, who became the first Rugby Union player to come out as gay in 2009, told the Sunday Mirror that he “broke down” upon finding out the news of his diagnosis.

“I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph. I wasn’t expecting it at all. Then I was thinking, ‘How long have I got left?’ I was distraught,” the 45-year-old said.

Thomas continued, explaining that he previously “lived with the belief that HIV is terminal”.

“I’d never known anyone with HIV or AIDS. And everything I’d heard about HIV was death and frailness,” he said.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a life-long virus which attacks the body’s immune system, the National AIDS Trust outlines.

When a person who is HIV+ does not receive medical treatment, they can develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), an advanced stage of an HIV infection which manifests when the immune system is no longer able to fight infection.

“AIDS is life threatening, but if HIV is caught early and treated, it will not lead to AIDS,” the charity states.

Hours after announcing his HIV diagnosis, Thomas took part in a 140-mile Ironman Wales triathlon.

Gareth Thomas competes in Ironman Wales (Getty Images)

The Welshman completed the race in 12 hours, 18 minutes and 29 seconds, coming in 413th place out of 2,039 competitors.

Thomas looked visibly emotional as crowds of spectators cheered him on from the sidelines.

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One of the focuses of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s upcoming royal tour to Southern Africa is HIV/AIDS, the couple recently stated on Instagram.

In 2016, Prince Harry was filmed live on Facebook undertaking an HIV test.

To find out more about HIV tests and what they involve, click here.

If you need support or further information about HIV, you can contact the Terrence Higgins Trust helpline on 0808 802 1221. The helpline is open from 10am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.