Former Welsh rugby international Gareth Thomas has denied allegations made in the High Court that he infected a former partner with HIV, Mail Plus has revealed.
The ex-Wales and Lions rugby captain was accused of ‘concealing’ his HIV-positive condition and failing ‘to take reasonable care’ to ensure he did not transmit the virus to 59-year-old Ian Baum.
HIV carriers can be charged with grievous bodily harm if they fail to declare their status to potential sexual partners and pass on the infection.
It comes three years after the rugby legend Gareth Thomas revealed he has been living with HIV ‘for years’ – at times leaving him contemplating suicide.
The Wales and British Lions star, who came out as gay in 2009, said he was revealing his diagnosis because he wanted to ‘make a difference’ by helping end the stigma surrounding the virus.
He said he had kept his HIV status secret because he feared people would ‘treat me like a leper’.
Thomas, 48, became the first major British sports star to admit to being HIV-positive in 2019.
He also said he was threatened with blackmail – forcing him to tell his family about his HIV status before they heard it from someone else.
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Rugby legend Gareth Thomas revealed he has been living with HIV ‘for years’. He is pictured in a video he posted on Twitter about his condition
Thomas played 100 times for Wales during his illustrious career before he retired from the game in 2011
Gareth married his childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2002 but came out as gay in 2009
Thomas (pictured centre) taking part in the Wales Ironman competition in Tenby. He is pictured emerging from the water after completing the gruelling 2.3-mile swim
He said: ‘I’ve been living with this secret for years. I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll.
WHAT IS HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus which attacks the immune system—the body’s defence against diseases.
HIV stays in the body for life, but treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. Without medication people with HIV can develop AIDS.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection, when the immune system can no longer fight infections.
Someone with AIDS has both HIV and at least one of a specific list of ‘AIDS-defining’ diseases, which include tuberculosis, pneumonia and some types of cancer.
AIDS is life threatening, but if HIV is caught early and is treated, it will not lead to AIDS. If HIV is caught late, it can lead to more complications and could ultimately lead to AIDS.
It is important to get tested early if you have been at risk of HIV, as it will mean that you can access treatment that will prevent you ever getting AIDS.
Source: The National Aids Trust
‘I had a fear people would judge me and treat me like a leper because of a lack of knowledge.
‘I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal. I thought about driving off a cliff. Many people live in fear and shame of having HIV, but I refuse to be one of them now.
‘We need to break the stigma once and for all. I’m speaking out because I want to help others and make a difference.’
HIV (human immuno-deficency virus) attacks the body’s immune system. Those diagnosed with the virus once had a bleak prospect.
However, nowadays it can be fully controlled by drugs which stop it developing into AIDS.
The rugby star compared his condition to ‘living with diabetes or high blood pressure’ and appears to be as fit as ever.
He said he would ‘never forget’ the moment he found out his diagnosis, which came after a ‘routine sexual health test’ in Cardiff.
When told in a ‘matter of fact way’ that he was HIV-positive, Thomas said he broke down. ‘I immediately thought I was going to die,’ he said.
‘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?’
Thomas did not say when the diagnosis took place or whether he became infected while still playing professional rugby, but revealed that he had to tell a number of former sexual partners as a matter of ‘duty’ so they could get themselves tested too.
He split with his wife Jemma in 2009 upon revealing his true sexuality, seven years after they married.
David Cameron meets with Gareth Thomas at Downing Street in 2011 following his retirement
The ex-rugby player says he considered committing suicide after learning of his diagnosis
Thomas also said that learning of his diagnosis has not been the last trauma he has had to undergo.
He revealed that afterwards he was ‘threatened by people who said they would give away my secret’, who he feared would ‘use it as a weapon’ against him and his family.
He had wanted to keep the information from his parents, Yvonne and Barry, fearing it would ‘hurt’ them. After the blackmail threat he decided he had no option but to tell them. In the event he discovered he ‘underestimated’ them.
‘My parents and loved ones are fine with it,’ he said.
Thomas, who is affectionately known by his nickname ‘Alfie’, said there was so much ‘inaccurate information’ about HIV that he wanted to counter, stressing, for instance, that there was ‘no possibility’ of him passing it on to others because of the drugs he was taking.
He said: ‘I always say now, ‘I’m living with HIV. I know I have HIV, but HIV doesn’t have me. It doesn’t control me.’
Commenting on Thomas going public, a close friend who also played for Wales, said: ‘Everyone is shocked and worried for Gareth – but the important thing is he’s fit and well.
‘He is a remarkable individual who is mentally equipped to deal with this illness.
‘Everyone supported him when he came out as gay and that support will be even stronger now.’
The former rugby player posted also posted this picture of himself giving a big ‘thumbs up’ on his 45th birthday in July, with the caption: ‘I try to do the right thing but more importantly I know I will sometimes fail, cry, and be sad, and strangely it’s knowing that, that makes me happy.’
He added: ‘Gareth is inspirational, he’s changed the lives of so many people.
‘I fully expect him to become a leading light for HIV and Aids charities, that’s the sort of bloke he is.’
Thomas came out at the end of his rugby career and said at the time: ‘I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player, I am a rugby player first and foremost I’m a man.’
Following his diagnosis revelation, there has been a huge outpouring of support.
HIV and sexual health charity Terrance Higgins Trust said in a statement: ‘Gareth Thomas has spoken publicly about living with HIV for the very first time ahead of taking on the Ironman Wales challenge.
‘He wants everyone to know that HIV shouldn’t stop you doing anything you want to. We’re very proud to call him a friend.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also tweeted his support, saying the rugby legend has ‘shown enormous strength’ in sharing his HIV status.
He described him as a ‘role model challenging stigma and prejudice’, ‘offering hope and resolve to others’.
The Welsh rugby team, who are in Japan for the Rugby World Cup, has also shown their support.
Head coach Warren Gatland said: ‘There hasn’t been a lot of conversation about it because it’s very fresh news to us at this stage.
‘It’s always sad when an ex-professional sportsman picks up an illness of any kind. As the players become aware of the news, I’m sure they’ll talk about it.’
Thomas took part in Dancing On Ice in 2013. He is pictured right with skating partner Robin Johnstone
After retiring from the game Thomas launched a successful media career while volunteering for charities and is an active supporter of Childline.
‘Come on Alfie!’: Gareth Thomas cheered by crowds at Wales Ironman day after HIV revelation
Gareth Thomas was given huge cheers as he emerged out of the water after completing the first leg of the gruelling Ironman race in Tenby, West Wales.
There were cries of ‘Come on Alfie’ and ‘Go Gareth’ as he mounted his black racing bike for a 112-mile race through Pembrokeshire’s country roads.
Thomas waved at the crowds but looked ruggedly determined and there was no smiles from the ex-rugby star the day after he revealed he is battling HIV.
Spectator Adam Davies, 45, of Swansea, said: ‘He was in sports mode – he looked pretty determined and engrossed in the race. I only found out about his illness when I arrived here at six this morning. What a super hero this bloke is. It looks to me like he’s sending a message out to the world about living with HIV.’
The former wales and British Lions fullback entered the sea at Tenby’s north Beach at 7am along with 2,300 other competitors.
He completed the 2.3-mile swim in an estimated 1 hour 29 minutes and looked fresh and strong at the transition to the cycle element of the race which ends with a full marathon.
Thomas, wearing number 50, was given another huge cheer when his name was announced over the PA system at the event which will take 17 hours for some competitors to complete.
He said he hoped his public acknowledgement of his sexuality would help other young gay sportsmen seek support from charities such as Childline.
Thomas appeared as a contestant on TV’s Celebrity Big Brother where he reached the final three.
He also appeared on Dancing on Ice as a pundit and has been given his own shows on BBC Wales including Run for Your Life when he trained a group of overweight and unfit women from the Welsh Valleys to get fit for the Cardiff Half Marathon.
Last November Thomas was the victim of an homophobic attack while out with friends in Cardiff City Centre.
He posted a video on his Twitter Page showing his bruised and cut face from the Saturday night ‘hate crime’ in the Welsh capital.
A 16-year-old boy was later dealt with by restorative justice and met with Thomas to apologise for his actions.
In 2017 he made a TV documentary called Gareth Thomas v Homophobia challenging gay taunts used by soccer fans at Premiership matches.
He will now feature in a new documentary entitled: Gareth Thomas: HIV and ME, which will air on BBC One on Wednesday September 18 at 9pm.
Thomas has devoted the last few months getting fit for Ironman Wales, which is taking place in the West Wales seaside resort of Tenby.
He is one of more than 2,000 amateur competitors who lined up at 7am for the swimming leg of the gruelling race.
There were cries of ‘Come on Alfie’ and ‘Go Gareth’ as he mounted his black racing bike for a 112-mile race through Pembrokeshire’s country roads after completing the 2.3-mile swimming section in just under an hour and a half.
Thomas waved at the crowds but looked ruggedly determined and there was no smiles from the ex-rugby star the day after he revealed he is battling HIV.
WHO IS GARETH THOMAS?
Gareth Thomas is a former Welsh rugby player. He has represented Wales in both Rugby Union and Rugby League and was the most capped player in the country until he was overtaken in 2011.
He came out as gay in 2009 following a split from his wife and childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2007, becoming the first openly-gay rugby player in Britain.
Thomas, who is affectionately known as ‘Alfie’ due to his ‘resemblance to the alien character in the TV sitcom ‘Alf’, battled with his sexuality for years, telling of how he was driven to the brink of suicide on multiple occasions.
He told the Daily Mail in December 2009: ‘I was like a ticking bomb. I thought I could suppress it, keep it locked away in some dark corner of myself, but I couldn’t.
‘It was who I was, and I just couldn’t ignore it any more. I’d been through every emotion under the sun trying to deal with this.
‘You wake up one morning thinking: ‘I can handle it. Everything is fine,’ and the next morning you don’t want anyone to see your face, because you think that if people look at you, they will know.’
Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas is pictured in October 2010
He went on: ‘Sometimes I felt so alone and depressed. I’ve stood on so many cliff edges.
‘I used to go to the cliffs overlooking the beach near our cottage in St Brides Major and just think about jumping off and ending it all.’
The year after he came out he was voted the most influential gay person in the UK and has since worked with multiple LGBT charities among others.
Thomas is the youngest of three sons. His older brothers are Richard and Steven. His father Barry, 69, is a retired postal worker, and his mother Yvonne, 70, a former hospital secretary.
He began his sporting career with his native Bridgend in 1994, staying there for three years. He made his debut for Wales the following year, representing his country until 2007.
With 100 appearances he was the most capped Welsh Rugby Union player ever until 2011 when the accolade was taken by Stephen Jones.
He played for Wales at the 2007 Rugby World Cup and played in four tournaments altogether
The fullback was the second highest try scorer for Wales, behind Shane Williams and captained for his country, and various club squads.
At club level Thomas played for Bridgend, Cardiff RFC, Celtic Warriors, Cardiff Blues and French side Toulouse.
During his time in France he was found guilty of assault in 2005. Two years later he was banned from the game for four week on misconduct charges.
While he was still playing in France he suffered a major health scare after a neck injury. He was later rushed to hospital and was suspected to have had a stroke, with fears the impact on his health may have led to his retirement.
After marrying childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2002, the couple struggled with relationship problems.
Thomas said he ‘knew he was gay’ at the age of around 16 or 17, but failed to accept it until years later.
He admitted cheating on her multiple times, insisting he always practised safe sex when sleeping with men.
Thomas will be part of ITV’s broadcast team for the upcoming World Cup in Japan this month
The couple were married for five years, during which time Jemma suffered three miscarriages. They split in 2007 with the divorce finalised in 2009.
Thomas carried on playing rugby until 2011 when he suffered a broken arm. After missing two months, he announced he would be retiring from the sport in October that year.
Since he came out in 2009, Thomas has worked with numerous charities, including ChildLine, the Terrance Higgins Trust and Stonewall.
He was an ITV rugby pundit during the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
In January 2012 he went into the Celebrity Big Brother House, finishing in the final three.
A year later he appeared on Dancing On Ice, when he was partnered with professional skater Robin Johnstone.
Thomas is pictured taking part in Dancing On Ice in January 2013 alongside his skating partner Robin Johnstone
This was around the time a film was due to be made about Thomas’s life. Actor Tom Hardy was due to play Thomas, but the film later fell through.
His autobiography Proud was released in 2015, which gave distressing details about his battle with his sexuality.
In November 2018 he was assaulted in Cardiff city centre in a homophobic attack. He took to social media to share his ordeal and requested South Wales police deal with the 16-year-old suspect by way of restorative justice.
In September 2019 he became the first major British sports star to come out as HIV-positive.
He said he has been living with the virus ‘for years’ and also revealed he is now re-married to a man named Stephen, 56.
His husband does not have HIV and the couple live in Bridgend, South Wales, with Stephen’s 23-year-old daughter Anna.