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  1. ITV Report

Support for Gareth Thomas as ex-Wales captain reveals he has HIV

Former Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas has received support from former team mates and politicians after revealing he is HIV positive.

Gareth Thomas had said he has been living with HIV. Credit: Gareth Thomas / Twitter

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Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus, and has revealed that he was driven to suicidal thoughts as a result of his diagnosis.

He took part in the Ironman challenge on Sunday, which has involved him learning to swim.

Gareth Thomas completing the cycling part of his Ironman race in Tenby. Credit: Dimitris Legakis

There were emotional scenes as he passed his husband Stephen while taking part in the challenge.

Gareth broke down in tears after seeing his husband Stephen and crowds cheering him on at the event

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called him a "role model" and referee Nigel Owens said Thomas was "brave".

Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust HIV charity, said Thomas's diagnosis may help change public attitudes.

I'm very proud to call Gareth Thomas a friend. Gareth is proof that an HIV diagnosis shouldn't stop you from doing anything you want to do - whatever that is.

I hope that by speaking publicly about this Gareth will transform attitudes towards HIV that are all too often stuck in the 1980s.

– Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust

Mr Green said improving treatment "means that people living with HIV like Gareth now live long healthy lives".

Mr Green said that Thomas blazed a trail by being the first rugby player to come out as gay and "has done so much to encourage inclusion and diversity within the sport".

This is exactly the kind of information Gareth wants to get out there to challenge the stigma that still surrounds this virus.

Now he is doing that once again with HIV and taking on the challenge of a lifetime in Ironman Wales to show that this virus doesn't need to be a barrier when you're diagnosed and accessing treatment.

– Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust

His decision to speak out has been backed by charities and high-profile figures, including the Duke of Cambridge.

Prince William retweeted Thomas’s video, adding: “Courageous as ever – legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth. W”

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Mr Corbyn said: "Gareth Thomas has again shown enormous strength in declaring himself HIV positive.

"A role model challenging stigma and prejudice."

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Current Wales head coach, Warren Gatland sent Gareth Thomas his best wishes during his first news conference in Japan.

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Former Wales captain, Ryan Jones also praised "Alife" for his bravery. He described him as a "wonderful character" and a "great man."

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