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September 18, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:21am

Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas says journalist revealed his HIV status to his parents

By Freddy Mayhew

Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas has said a journalist revealed his HIV positive status to his parents before he had told them himself.

Thomas, 45, has also said he was forced to go public about his condition as a result of tabloid interest and would otherwise have stayed silent.

He revealed his HIV diagnosis in the Sunday Mirror at the weekend. The paper said it was approached by the sportsman to go public with his story.

Thomas, who was the first rugby player to come out as gay, has also filmed a BBC documentary about his HIV status which airs tonight on BBC One.

He told BBC Radio today that he started making the documentary following media pressure. “I would love to say I chose to [make it] but I did not choose to, because I shouldn’t have had to make the choice,” he said.

The former Wales rugby captain told Radio 5 Live that a “tabloid journalist” first told his parents he was HIV positive – he had kept it secret from them.

He said: “I needed to be able to understand everything before I sat down with my parents and before I could do that a journalist decides to knock my parents’ door and ask them to make a comment on it.

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“Now if that’s not the lowest form – you know what it’s wrong of me to even call it a journalist because as somebody who’s put my parents through a lot I didn’t want to put them through anymore.”

He added: “That person came and took that moment away from me.”

Thomas declined to identify the newspaper that had sent the journalist to speak to his parents when invited to do so on air, but said cryptically: “…everybody will know, especially of late”.

His comment could point to the Sun, which has so far declined to comment.

The top-selling daily paper stoked controversy only yesterday after revealing the tragic past of England cricketer Ben Stokes’ mother. Stokes hit out in a public statement, labelling it “utterly disgusting”.

The Sun says it wrote the story with the co-operation of a family member and approached Stokes for comment prior to publishing.

Asked what he would say to the journalist who knocked on his parents’ door, Thomas said: “I would like to see these people be able to be strong enough to turn around and say do you know what I’m sorry.

“I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done it, and then I can forgive and move on.”

But Thomas also praised the Mirror titles for their handling of his story. He said: “There’s a lot of good journalists out there.

“The Sunday Mirror and the Daily Mirror have helped me promote the campaign and are going to stick with me to promote the campaign and be a part of [HIV charity] the Terrence Higgins Trust and it rejuvenated my belief in people.”

A Mirror spokesperson said: “We are honoured that Gareth Thomas came to us to share his story last weekend.

“We worked with him and the Terrence Higgins Trust every step of the way to ensure that the coverage was sensitive and responsible, and we are pleased that he trusted us with this.”

Asked if he felt more needed to be done as regards the media covering stories such as his HIV positive status and Stokes’ family tragedy, Thomas said: “It’s insane and I think it’s getting worse, it’s not getting better.”

“There’s rules and laws that are being created, but I can tell you now for the good couple of years that I’ve been living in fear of it being published I’ve learnt the law of what people can and can’t do, but the tabloids will create their own law and you’ll send them a letter and all they’ll do, they’ll just ignore it and then they’ll do another thing…

“They might say it’s in the public interest, but the reality is no-one in the public is even interested.”

Picture: BBC

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