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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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Kenyan buried in the US after mysterious death

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A Kenyan who has been serving in the US army and mysteriously died last week was on Friday laid to rest.

Mr John Moreka died while he was in the company of friends after he fell unconscious in his car.

Ms Agnes Sobi, a cousin of the late Moreka, said that he died on May 11, 2020, at the Grand Prairie Texas in the US.

“As a family, we lost a man who was loved by all, we shall really miss him,” she said.

Another relative, John Omosa took to his Facebook page to mourn the late who was his uncle.

“May you rest in peace uncle,” he said.

Mr Moreka died while in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after the complications persisted.

His lifeless body was then taken to Amalla funeral home in Texas, US.

By NN

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Bishop Wanjiru denies hosting prayer meet that led to Covid-19

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When former Starehe legislator Bishop Margaret Wanjiru went to Aga Khan hospital a week ago, on Saturday she told journalists that she initially thought she was suffering from food poisoning, only for her to turn positive of COVID-19.

She was also suffering from diarrhea- which is the latest symptom of coronavirus, according to public health officials.

The Jesus is Alive Ministries bishop tested positive alongside her two grandchildren, who have also recovered. Her six members of staff are still in hospital.

“COVID-19 is real and should be taken seriously, and not only when you are at work. I did not leave home, the disease found me home,” she told a news conference at the Aga Khan Hospital, shortly after discharge.

She urged Kenyans to heed to the Ministry of Health precautionary measures and not to fear seeking medical help in hospital due to coronavirus.

“We take some things for granted when we are at home. We do not put on masks while at home. Even at home, use the mask, as much as you can. Learn from me,” the former legislator who started the briefing with a word of a prayer said.

Bishop Margaret Wanjiru was among patients discharged Saturday after recovering from COVID-19. /MOSES MUOKI.

The Bishop and her two grandchildren walked out of the hospital free of the virus, a week after being admitted. She attributes her healing to God.

“All along, I knew I had eaten bad food,” she said, “I did not have flu or cough. Anytime you feel disorder in your body, do not shy away from going to hospital.”

Wanjiru and her two grandchildren are among 26 Kenyans who have recovered from the disease, raising the tally to 464.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Rashid Aman said the patients were discharged from various hospitals across the country.

The death toll rose to 63, after a 50-year-old man succumbed to the virus.

The Ministry of Health said most of the people who have died were suffering from other underlying conditions, including Diabetes.

The Ministry said on Saturday that public health officials had discovered a new symptom exhibited by most COVID-19 patients–Diarrhoea. This is coupled up by high fever, dry cough and tiredness.

Dr Aman said the symptom has been recorded in many other parts of the world.

On Saturday, Bishop Wanjiru said she initially did not have coronavirus symptoms but had diarrhea and food poisoning, only to be confirmed with COVID-19 on testing.

The former Assistant Minister has been at Aga Khan Hospital since last week, and is among the 26 patients declared COVID-19 free on Saturday and now stand discharged from hospital.

The COVID-19 curve remained on a sharp increase in Kenya since last week, even as President Uhuru Kenyatta prepares to make a key announcement on the status of a national curfew and other restrictions.

A national curfew has been in place for the past two months until June 6, along with restrictions on cessation of movement into and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Mandera Counties.

On Saturday, there were 143 new cases reported, just a day after posting 127 cases on Friday.

On Thursday, 147 new cases were recorded from various counties, with particular focus to Nairobi and Mombasa counties which have been recording high figures.

Cummulatively, Kenya had recorded 1,888 positive cases by May 30, with a warning from the Ministry of Health on more cases as the country draws closer to its peak which was projected to start in June to around September.

Health CAS Aman said Kenya is it a critical period on the pandemic, and urged Kenyans to cooperate in observing social distancing and all other measures imposed to help prevent the spread.

The government has warned Kenyans against dropping the guard, after increased cases of people not using masks in public places were reported.

Dr Aman said the government was concerned at a new habit by leaders who have been holding large meetings, and urged them to respect the measures put in place.

“We must respect these guidelines because that is the only way we will be able to beat the virus,” he said.

Concerns were raised after COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli convened a meeting at his Kajiado residence on Friday, attended by more that 50 leaders, among them four Governors and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, in what was billed as a Luhya-unity bid.

By Capital.co.ke

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My fear for my mum

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A son of former Starehe MP Bishop Margaret Wanjiru has spoken of the family’s fears the moment his mother was diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus and wheeled into an ICU.

Speaking in a YouTube video, Reverend Evans Kariuki revealed that the family was shaken when they received the news but they remained firm in prayer and determined that all would be well.

“Our faith was strong because of the believers especially in Kenya and from all corners of the world who stood with us,” he said.

He also provided an update of her current state of health.

Kariuki, who is a pastor in the United States of America, said his mother had responded well to medication and that she would soon be discharged from hospital.

In the video, which was uploaded on his channel, Mr Kariuki thanked Kenyans for praying for his mother as soon as they learnt that she had fallen sick.

Ms Wanjiru was a couple of days ago admitted at a Nairobi hospital with Covid-19 after she hosted a number of people for overnight prayers.

“My name is Evans Kariuki, I am the son of Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and I wanted to thank everyone for the thousands of prayers that we have received,” he says in the video.

He adds: “ Bishop is recovering fast and we give all the glory to God.”

The reverend asked people across the nation to pray for the current situation the world is going through and those who have been affected directly or indirectly.

The former MP who is the lead Bishop in the Jesus is Alive Ministries hosted 18 individuals after which eight tested positive for the virus.

The Kenyan government has prohibited a gathering of more than 15 people.

By NN

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