Former Wales Rugby captain Thomas reveals that he has been living with HIV in a video statement obtained from social media. Photo: Twitter/Gareth Thomas via Reuters

The sporting world has rallied behind Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas after he revealed that he has HIV.

The 45-year-old former Wales and Lions captain is the first British sports person to publicly state he has the virus, and hopes to end the stigma around the disease by speaking out.

Thomas came out as gay in 2009 and this latest revelation has seen him receive waves of support.

‘It’s always sad when an ex-professional sportsman picks up an illness of any kind,’ said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

‘Our thoughts go out to him and we hope things are as good as they possibly can be.’ And referee Nigel Owens, also openly homosexual, said: ‘Stay strong my friend and as always well done for being so brave and open to speak about these important issues that affect so many and will help even more.’

Thomas competed in an Ironman race in Tenby yesterday alongside former team-mate Shane Williams, who added his tribute too.

‘One of the bravest people I know! Love ya pal and see you on the beach! Let’s smash this!!’ said the former Welsh winger.

Another old team-mate, Alix Popham, said: ‘Always here for you mate and very proud of you.’

Former England prop Phil Vickery, who played with Thomas for the Lions, wrote on Twitter: ‘With you brother. #RugbyFamily.’

And Shane Byrne — the ex-Ireland and Lions hooker — added: ‘You have my support Gareth! For a short time I was a teammate of yours and your bravery was never in doubt, but I can’t imagine how hard it was to make that video! #StayStrong #RugbyFamily’

The British & Irish Lions sent their own message too. ‘So much respect for your strength and courage,’ they wrote on Twitter. ‘Wishing you all the best.’

British Olympic hero Dame Kelly Holmes also wrote: ‘Gareth you are a legend through and through, I am sending so much love, hugs and strength to you.’

Daily Mail