Former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas says he was forced to go public with his HIV diagnosis by a tabloid newspaper.

The 45-year-old Thomas has given a long interview to the Sunday Mirror, the paper claiming that he had been "blackmailed by another newspaper" who had approached his parents before he had informed them.

The Thomas revelations have further raised the question of media ethics, after England cricketer Ben Stokes attacked the Sun for revealing a family tragedy this week.

Thomas told the BBC: "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 okay and going to be able to live through this. That person came and took that moment from me."


Thomas tells his story in a BBC documentary to be aired this week.

He had lived in fear of the diagnosis being revealed, and a reporter had approached his parents before the family had "discussed it properly", according to the BBC.

Thomas says he felt compelled to make the public announcement because of threats made by "evils" to reveal his HIV status.

"I would love to sit here and say yes but I'd be a hypocrite if I did," Thomas said, when asked if he would have gone public without the media pressure.

"Absolutely not. It's got nothing to do with anyone else.

"I'm lucky that I have parents who love me and will support me through anything, but I deserved to have that moment with them."

Gareth Thomas...
Gareth Thomas..."robbed" by newspaper. Photo / Photosport

Thomas told BBC Radio Wales: "I've been living in fear of it being published. The tabloids will create their own law.

"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.


"When they do it they'll somehow find justification for doing it. They'll say it's OK, a family member told us something."

Thomas got the diagnosis a couple of years ago and treatment has left it undetectable. He wanted to understand everything about the diagnosis before deciding whether to tell his parents. But journalists had knocked on his parents' door.

"There's a lot of good journalists out there," he said.

"I would like to see these people be able to be strong enough to turn around and say…I'm sorry I shouldn't have done it. Then I can forgive and move on."

MP Damian Collins, chairman of the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, told the BBC: "I don't believe there is any public interest in putting people under that sort of pressure.

"I think that is a private matter ... It should be entirely a decision for [Thomas] to take."

But Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: "I'm not defending the Sun [but] we have a free press.

"It's such a jewel in the crown of any free society. And there are always the sharks circling, the politicians, the rich, the powerful who would like to see that free press closed down."

Fingers are being pointed at the Sun as being the paper who approached the Thomas family. The paper has declined to comment.