Press intrusion forced Thomas to go public about HIV

Gareth Thomas said press intrusion forced him to go public with his HIV diagnosis (AFP Photo/CLEMENS BILAN)

London (AFP) - Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has said that he would not have revealed his HIV diagnosis if a newspaper had not threatened to publish it.

The 45-year-old revealed at the weekend that he had been blackmailed prior to publicly announcing he had HIV.

Thomas, who completed a 140-mile Ironman triathlon on Sunday, hopes to remove some of the stigma over the disease in a BBC documentary to be aired on Wednesday.

However, he said he felt forced into a corner after a journalist told his parents of his condition before he did.

"I would love to sit here and say yes, but I'd be a hypocrite if I did. Absolutely not. It's got nothing to do with anyone else," said Thomas when asked if he would have gone public without the intrusion into his private life.

"I can never have that moment back to sit down with them and be able to explain to them why their son is going to be OK and is going to be able to live through this and live a normal, healthy life.

"That person came and took that moment away from me."

Thomas's comments come the day after England cricketer Ben Stokes branded a front page story in The Sun newspaper about his family "utterly disgusting" and "the lowest form of journalism".

Both stories have revived the debate surrounding British press ethics.

"The tabloids will create their own law," added Thomas.

"You'll send them a letter and all they'll do is ignore it.

"I haven't got the money to be able to fight a giant tabloid in court."

Thomas, who retired from professional rugby in 2011, said living with HIV has little impact on his day-to-day life given the advances in medicine other than taking a single pill every day and visiting the hospital for blood tests every six months.