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Wednesday Oct 13, 2021

Thomas reflects on Williams' great reaction to HIV news as they team up

Welsh rugby legends Shane Williams and Gareth Thomas ran side-by-side last weekend in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in London, to raise awareness for the Tackle HIV initiative.

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Thomas revealed that he was HIV positive in 2019, having come out a decade earlier, and has been a key proponent of various awareness programmes around the virus ever since.

Still something of a taboo within elite sport, HIV affects over 100,000 people in the UK with more than 37 million globally living with the virus.

Thomas has been open about how he has dealt with HIV and believes it is vital for people to understand just what it is like living with it day-to-day.

The former Wales captain has also said that the support he received throughout the past three years since being diagnosed, from Williams in particular, has been invaluable.

RELATED: Support floods in for Gareth Thomas after HIV reveal

“I couldn’t be where I am today without the support of others. I didn’t do this on my own,” Thomas told the PA news agency.

“When I sat down with Shane and told him I was living with HIV, it was live on camera.

“I tried for weeks and weeks previously to get Shane to let me tell him what I was going to tell him.

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“Because I didn’t want Shane’s reaction not to represent who he is as a man. And I understood there could have been a moment that captured an awkward look on Shane’s face.

“I’m proud of where I am in my life, but I’m only where I am in my life because of people like Shane, and my family.”

Williams spoke of the admiration he had for his friend and former team-mate.

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“He didn’t know how the public were going to perceive him,” Williams said.

“But as soon as he did say something, he felt 100 times better, so much weight was lifted off the shoulders and that kind of stress had been relieved.

“And the public reaction has been just the same as from his family and friends. The public loves Gareth for Gareth, and that’s important.

WATCH: Gareth Thomas flipped in brutal tackle during 2000 Cardiff Test

“I am very proud of him as his friend; out of captaining your country and playing for Wales 100 times, that was probably far easier than coming out as gay and coming out as having contracted HIV.

“But he’s done all those things and the manner in which he has just shows what a strong character he is.

“I think his experience hopefully provides a good platform for others to follow in future. As a captain in rugby he led from the front and I feel like he’s just done that all over again.

“I know people have used him as an inspiration to change their lives, and that’s only going to continue.”

You can watch the full 2019 documentary mentioned above on the BBC iPlayer (UK only)

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