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Rugby legend reveals he’s living with HIV

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Rugby legend Gareth Thomas today reveals his torment after keeping his HIV positive diagnosis a secret for years.

In a candid and emotional interview, he tells the Sunday Mirror how he sobbed in the arms of a doctor, feared he would die – and felt like ending it all by driving over a cliff.

The 45-year-old is the first UK sportsman to reveal he has the virus and is breaking his silence because he wants to end stigma around HIV.

He also reveals he and husband Stephen – who he met after being diagnosed – married three years ago. Stephen does not have HIV.

Former Wales rugby union and league star Gareth says of his diagnosis: “I’ve been living with this secret for years.

Rugby legend Gareth Thomas [Courtesy]

“I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll.

“I had a fear people would judge me and treat me like a leper because of a lack of knowledge. I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal. I thought about driving off a cliff.

“To me, wanting to die was just a natural thought and felt like the easier way out, but you have to confront things.

“And having a strong support system and the personal strength and experience of overcoming those emotions got me through it.

“Many people live in fear and shame of having HIV, but I refuse to be one of them now. We need to break the stigma once and for all.

“I’m speaking out because I want to help others and make a difference.”

Gareth is speaking on the eve of the Rugby World Cup starting next week – when he will be a pundit for ITV.

While reluctant to reveal the date of his diagnosis, Gareth spells out the profound moment he was given the news by medics.

The former British Lions captain, who revealed he was gay in 2009 and retired from rugby in 2011, said: “I’ll never ever forget the moment I found out. I went for a routine sexual health test at a private clinic in Cardiff.

“I’d had the tests every now and again and they’d always come back okay. I didn’t feel ill and I thought everything was going to be fine.

“The woman who did the test took blood as usual, then I went out to my car and waited for about an hour before going back in to get my results.”

His voice choking with emotion, Gareth adds: “When I went back in, I sat down on a chair next to a doctor’s bench. She told me in a quite matter of fact way I had tested HIV positive.

“When she said those words I broke down. I was in such a state. I immediately thought I was going to die.

“I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph. I wasn’t expecting it at all. Then I was thinking ‘how long have I got left?’ I was distraught.”

Gareth, who is 6ft 3in and 16st, found himself sobbing on the doctor’s shoulder while struggling to understand the enormity of the news and what the future held.

He goes on: “She treated me with such empathy and understanding and after about 20 minutes I got myself together.

“I remember she told me, ‘You need to go to the hospital right now and start the process straight away, because the doctors will be able to help you better understand your diagnosis. Don’t wait for tomorrow’.

“I drove straight to Cardiff Royal Infirmary, but I was still in such a traumatised state. In tears, I rang a good friend on the way and blurted it out.

“I told him, ‘I’ve got HIV – I’m going to die’. He was trying to comfort and reassure me and telling me to go and speak to the doctors, but I’d already made my mind up that my life was over.

“I’d never known anyone with HIV or AIDS. And everything I’d heard about HIV was death and frailness.

“Like most people I lived with the belief that HIV is terminal. I tried to keep going as normal in the days afterwards, but felt completely numb.”

Gareth had to reveal his diagnosis to a string of former sexual partners so they could be tested.

He says: “I had to tell people I’d had sex with since my last test that I was HIV positive.

“Your history suddenly becomes very relevant and you have a duty of care to tell them. I did it over the phone. That was hard.”

Gareth married his teenage sweetheart Jemma in 2002. They split up after he told her he was gay – and he went public about his sexuality 10 years ago. He was the first British rugby international to “come out”.

There are an estimated 101,600 people in the UK with HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus – but many consider it too taboo to reveal it.

That is why Gareth remained silent, until now. He says: “I’ve chosen to speak out about this in the Sunday Mirror because it’s the paper I trust to put my story out there in the right way and because I believe together we can make a difference.

“But the truth is I’m still scared even now of people finding out I’m living with HIV and I’m s****ing myself and feel petrified about what the reaction will be, because we still live in an era where HIV is not spoken about.”

Gareth admits he once believed the myths surrounding transmission of HIV.

He adds: “I thought that if people knew about me being HIV positive they wouldn’t want to breathe the same air as me, they wouldn’t want to drink from the same cup as me and if I walked into a coffee shop everyone would just walk out because they’d be so scared of being infected by me.

“I think if you went out on the street right now and told 10 people you have HIV, 50 per cent of them would be scared you’re going to give it to them.

“I don’t blame people for thinking it, because I did too, but we need to change that by talking about it and educating people.”

HIV targets and alters the immune system, increasing the risk and impact of other infections and diseases.

Without treatment, the lifelong infection – which is spread through sexual contact and blood – can progress to AIDS. No cure is currently available for HIV or AIDS.

But modern advances mean HIV patients in countries with good access to healthcare very rarely develop AIDS once they get treatment.

Life expectancy of people with the virus is approaching that of a person who tests negative, as long as they adhere to a combination of ongoing medications called anti-retroviral therapy. Gareth takes one tablet containing four medications each day.

His condition is now under control to the point it is considered “undetectable” and can’t be passed on.

He receives regular counselling and has blood tests at Cardiff Royal Infirmary every six months.

But Gareth has never used the main entrance, saying: “I’ve always gone through a side door before opening hours because I thought if people spotted me they’d put two and two together and work out my secret.

“It has all been shrouded in a sense of shame and from me entering the clinic to leaving always feels like a blur.

“I still don’t feel I could walk in through the main entrance even now, although maybe that’ll change.

“HIV is a scary subject. There’s a lot of fear and ignorance. But the fear is something people learned in the 1980s from the tombstone adverts on TV. In 2019 there is nothing to be afraid of.

“People need to know that due to modern medicine HIV is not life-threatening any more and because of the medication I take, there’s no way it can be passed on.

“It’s very controllable. In terms of effect on the body, diabetes is considered worse to have than HIV by doctors. I’m not dying.”

The star remains supremely fit and will today compete in the Wales Ironman event in Tenby, South Wales.

He says: “I’m fitter now than when I played rugby and I didn’t have HIV then. I’m not just all right, I’m better than all right.”

Gareth, from Bridgend, won 100 caps for Wales from 1995 to 2007.

He made global headlines when he came out as gay while still playing rugby union. He went on to play rugby league, earning four caps for Wales.

A career in TV followed – he was on Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing on Ice and appeared on Oprah and the Ellen DeGeneres chat show.

Last year, he and MP Damian Collins launched a draft amendment to the 1991 Football Offences Act that would outlaw homophobic abuse at matches.

In November 2018 Gareth was attacked by a 16-year-old in Cardiff over his sexuality. Officers dealt with the youth offender by restorative justice following a request by Gareth – who believed it was the best way for the lad to learn.

Gareth is donating his fee for this interview to HIV and AIDS charity The Terrence Higgins Trust.

He says: “Through the Trust I’ve met other people with HIV and that has been powerful. It made me realise how much good I can do and the part I have to play in making a difference.

“I hope me speaking out about my diagnosis will help a lot of people.”

By Games Yet

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Why Amos Wako was banned from setting foot on US Soil

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The US has banned Busia Senator Amos Wako, his wife Flora Ngaira and son Julius from entering the country and doing business with it over corruption allegations while he was attorney-general.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also banned Mr Wako’s wife Flora Ngaira, and son, Julius Wako.

This means that Mr Wako, wife and son will not be allowed to visit America or transact any business in that country with companies affiliated to Americans.

“Today (Monday), the Department designates former Kenyan Attorney General Amos Sitswila Wako due to his involvement in significant corruption,” said the statement that was released on Monday evening.

Mr Pompeo said the designation was made under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and related programs appropriations Act, 2019 (Div. F, P.L. 116-6), as carried forward by the continuing appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. A, P.L. 116-59).

Section 7031(c) provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that officials of foreign governments have been involved in significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.

The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members.

“Today’s action sends a strong signal that the United States is a valuable partner in Kenya’s fight against corruption.  Economic prosperity for all Kenyans is only possible by defeating the scourge of corruption, which also requires a functional, fair, and transparent criminal justice system,” said Mr Pompeo

He added that the United States will continue to stand with all Kenyans as they strive to curb and punish corruption in Kenya.

Mr Wako may still be allowed onto US soil if he visits as a member of the Kenyan delegation to the UN meetings or if the UN invites him, even though his movement could be restricted.

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Standard Group journalist’s daughter scores 439 marks to top in KCPE

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Standard Group journalist Jonathan Komen’s daughter, June Cheptoo Koech, is the second-best overall student in the 2019 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE).

June scored 439 marks out of 500 marks and was among the three candidates; Flavian Koech and Sean Michael who tied in the second position nationally. The top student this year, Michael Munyiri, scored 440 marks.

Reacting to the news, her father Komen, who has been christened The Lion by colleagues in the newsroom, said that in Cheptoo, a real lioness had been born.“They call me the lion in the newsroom, well, today I want to announce that a real lioness has been found,” said Komen.

Cheptoo sat her examination at Sangalo Central Primary in Nandi County, a public school.

Speaking to Standard Digital on phone, Komen described her daughter as an avid reader with a cool head, adding that her performance did not surprise the family having scored 446 marks in the final mock examinations.

Komen, a household name among sports journalists in the country courtesy of his nice sports stories has made the headlines, not because of an eye-catching story, but because his daughter is among the best in the country this year.

BY Standard

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Embakasi West MP George Theuri in mourning

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Embakasi West Member of Parliament George Theuri is mourning the death of his father Mzee Theuri.

Mzee Theuri passed on Monday morning.

The MP took to his social media accounts to mourn the death of his father.

“My family mourn, I can’t believe Dad you are gone; RIP Dad I celebrate you, my hero. I may try to look strong on the outside, but I am so broken,” Theuri wrote on Facebook.

His followers took the opportunity to send in their messages of condolences to the legislator.

“God gives and he takes. May he rest well,” Hon Simon Mbugua posted.

“May God comfort you and your family and may he RIP. I am sure the way you treated him per your other posts on here made his last days on earth really bright,” Grace Preety Wa Wachira commented.

“Pole sana Mheshimiwa, may God give you the strength you need at this difficult moment,” Catherine Mukunyi wrote.

“Sincere condolences bwana mheshimiwa may his soul rest in peace. It is well,” Ednah Kamau said.

“My sincere condolences to you and your family may God comfort you,” commented Berniece Mugoh.

“So sorry for the loss. May God give you and the entire family strength, peace, and grace that surpasses human understanding during this difficult time,” posted Eunice Wanjiru.

“My condolences to you and your family. May the Lord comfort you as only he can. May he rest in peace,” Salome Thuo mentioned.

by NN

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