Gareth Thomas’ “Men’s Health” Cover Shows HIV Doesn’t Make You Weak

The gay rugby icon recently came out as HIV-positive.

Gareth Thomas is the picture of health.

Thomas, who revealed in September that he is HIV-positive, has now muscled his way on the cover of Men’s Health U.K.

The former Wales rugby star, who came out publicly as gay in 2009 and retired from the sport in 2011, was photographed for the December issue just weeks after making his HIV announcement.

“It’s a sign of where we are that a man LIVING with HIV is on the cover of Men’s Health,” Thomas writes on social media. “Thank you to everyone who works to ensure this happens for not just me, but millions of people.”

“When I came out as gay, I always wanted to show a sign of strength, I’d always fight to be the strongest,” the 45-year-old athlete tells the magazine. “Then, when I decided that I was going to take control of my life, I felt I needed to show another side of me, as far as fitness goes. So, I took that fitness to another level, because my mental images of people living with HIV were always frail, always weak. I wanted to display the total opposite of that.”

“Gareth now becomes the first sportsman living with HIV to grace the cover of Men’s Health,” writes editor Toby Wiseman. “But this is no mere footnote. I made the decision to approach Gareth with the offer of a cover profile because, soon after he made his bold announcement in September, it struck me that he symbolises a positive, thought-provoking change in the way our culture now perceives masculinity.”

Thomas revealed in September he was being blackmailed by a tabloid newspaper that had learned of his HIV diagnosis. He credited a “strong support system” for helping him survive this emotional period, including his husband, Stephen.

The Proud author, who now receives regular counseling, said he takes antiretroviral medication and that the virus is undetectable.

Thomas, an ITV pundit for the Rugby World Cup, recently competed in the Wales Ironman event. He is also the subject of a BBC documentary, Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me.

Last year Thomas was beaten in a homophobic attack. He decided not to press charges, instead asking his assailant for an apology.

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