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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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Where were the authorities? residents ask as Kenyan man is buried inside his living room



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Residents of Mucagara Village in Kirinyaga County were on Wednesday evening treated to a rare funeral after a man was buried inside his house.

They watched in astonishment as the coffin containing the remains of the 65-year-old retired coffee factory manager, Simon Muriithi Mwaniki, was lowered into the grave that had been dug in the living room.

Some whispered to each other during the dramatic send-off which left many in awe.

According to the man’s relative, prior to his death, he had expressed his wish to be buried in the house.

Emotions ran high as the funeral ceremony went on in the village in Gichugu Constituency.

“We had to act according to his wishes to avoid a curse and being haunted by his spirits,” said Mr James Njuki, the man’s eldest son.

Mwaniki was hurriedly buried in a brief ceremony conducted by an African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa priest, Jackson Muchiri.

Committed suicide

When Mwaniki committed suicide, no one mourned his death as he had asked family members not to do so when he was alive.

“Before he took his life he had told us that there should be no mourning when he dies. Therefore, we ensured that we never gathered at any time within the homestead to mourn him,” added Mr Njuki.

Mr Njuki recalled how on November 18 they found their father dangling from the roof of his house with a rope around his neck.

It was then that the matter was reported to the local police officers who drove to the scene and took the body to Kibugi Funeral Home.

His children suspected that their father took his life due to the depression he suffered after his wife, Juliana Muthoni, died.

“My father started drinking heavily after his wife died. He loved my mother so much and we think he was so much affected by her death and became depressed,” said Mr Njuki.

Rev Muchiri described the funeral as unique.

“For the 38 years that I have been conducting funerals, this is the first time to bury someone inside a house,” he said.

The residents said they were taken aback when they arrived at the homestead and saw the grave inside Mwaniki’s house.

“We were baffled. We have never witnessed such a funeral in this village. This is a funeral of its own kind which shocked all of us,” Mr Eliud Muriithi said.

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Tales of old widows of Dundori raped by ‘grandchildren’



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It was only 9pm, a relatively safe hour or so, the 60-year-old thought. She was home alone when a man forced his way in, tore her clothes and repeatedly raped her.

She did not recognize him through a glance on his face, but from how he hankered, he was tall.

That was on July 5, this year, and the memories of that night are still fresh in the mind of the victim – whose name we have concealed to protect her privacy.

Before the ordeal, the victim had only heard rumours of widows being raped in her Dundori neighbourhood in Nakuru County – a place now well known for the crimes.

Here, sunset years are a traumatising period for women – especially widows. In the dead of the night, they live in constant fear that young men will pounce on them and rape them.

“I live with my granddaughter in a two bedroomed house. On the fateful day, I heard a commotion outside and thought my two cows had fled the pen and I stepped out to check what was happening,” she says.

She tells the Nation that the attacker covered her mouth, dragged her into a dark sidewalk within the compound and raped her.

By the time her assailant left, the victim was short of breath and she had to take a series of deep breaths before screaming.

“I was rushed to Dundori Health Centre. I was treated and obtained a P3 form. Thereafter, I recorded a statement at Dundori Police Post, but the offender is yet to be arrested to date,” she says, adding that her self-esteem is fading away at the thought of not knowing who did that to her and why.

Living in fear

“I live in fear, because my attacker can strike again,” says the mother of five adult children.

Kilometres away in a neighbouring village, 62-year-old Wambui, (not her real name) also a widow, is living in fear months after she went through a similar ordeal.

“I was attacked at home by a gang of three men who raped me in turns in the presence of my granddaughter. They are yet to be arrested,” she says.

Wambui reveals that the assailants stormed her home where she lives with her granddaughter and tied them up before committing the heinous act.

“We had just taken supper around 8pm when they pushed their way into the compound. I reported the matter to the police, but they are yet to act,” she notes.

Another victim, a 90-year-old granny, says she lives alone after her husband died decades ago.

“At my age, I cannot follow up the case, but the police should help me get justice. I just leave it all to God,” she says amid tears.

The Nation encountered at least 16 elderly women claiming to have been raped in Dundori in the past three months. Among them is a 90-year-old granny, whom a Nyumba Kumi official reveals has been raped five times.

Residents who spoke to the Nation point a finger at young men who indulge in drugs in the area.

“They peddle drugs and commit all sorts of crime including house break-ins, without interference of the police,” says the resident of Kaburini Village.

He claims that police from Dundori Police Post collude with the criminals to defeat justice.

“We do not even have police patrols in Dundori and criminals enjoy a field day. Peddling of drugs like bhang, sale of illicit brews, house break-ins, rapes and defilements are the order of the day here,” he adds.

Rape survivors suffer trauma, headaches and memory lapses. Worse is the constant fear they live with, that the attackers might strike again.

The most affected villages include Juacali, Kaburini and Tia Wera, where an account of the victims paint a similar pattern in timing and manner.

The perpetrators

Assistant County Commissioner Henry Kirwa, however, says most victims are yet to report the incidents.

“Locals need awareness of how the justice system works. Most who claim to have been raped have never reported. Recently when we pushed them, about eight women recorded statements. They need to be educated on how rape and defilement cases are handled,” states Mr Kirwa.

He adds: “To help police track down suspects, they must report the incidents promptly.”

Interestingly, only eight victims have reported incidents of rape at the Dundori Police Post.

When reached for comment, Bahati Sub-county police boss Jacinta Mwarania promised to investigate the matter.

A Nyumba Kumi elder who sought anonymity reveals that rape cases among elderly women in the area have become rampant but police officers are doing little to save the situation.

“These cases are on the rise and every time they are reported to the police, victims are asked to produce more evidence to nail the suspects,” the elder says.

Another Nyumba Kumi official says the incidents happen at night between 8pm and 3am and that the perpetrators are sometimes known people.

In a recent incident, a Class Eight pupil was defiled at her home at about 7pm. Sources say the matter was reported to the police, but the assailant is still walking free days after his brief arrest.


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Ruth Matete seeks help as she marks first wedding anniversary minus hubby



Ms Ruth Matete and her husband MrJohn Apewajoye
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Gospel singer Ruth Matete penned a moving message to her newborn daughter as she marked her first wedding anniversary but without her husband Beloved John Apewajoye who died this year.

 The Tusker Project Fame 5 winner welcomed her bundle of joy in October, seven months after the tragic death of her husband.

In a lengthy Instagram post, in which she also attached a photo of her daughter, Reyna Toluwa’s feet, Matete prayed that her daughter would grow up to serve the Lord.

“Reyna Toluwa my princess. My love. Am not a poet, but the words I write here, are from my heart. I pray for you on this special day. That you will grow to serve the Lord. You will spread the good news of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” Matete wrote.

She also declared that Reyna’s feet will carry the good news.

“As the Bible says; ‘And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?’ As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ I declare today, that your feet are beautiful. Not just because they look like your father’s, but also because they will bring good news as the word of God declares,” she added.

 Matete remembered the vows she made on her wedding day, ‘till death do us part’ but she emotionally noted that death took her beloved husband earlier than expected.

“A day like this a year ago, your late father and I walked down the isle. Yes, we didPromised to be together till death do us part. But death came earlier than we expected.  I miss him so much. But am blessed to have you as a gift that he left me with. I don’t even understand how I’ve come this far. It can only be God,” she posted.

Even though it was one of those difficulty days in her life, Matete promised her daughter she would be fine eventually.

“Today may not be such an easy day for mummy. But I promise you, I’ll be fine. I have seen God to be the father to the fatherless and husband to the widow as He has promised in His word. Today won’t be an exception. I know He will help us even today,”  Matete said in the post.

 She ended her emotional message by asking for monetary support as she could not yet manage to resume work after a troublesome pregnancy.

“Friends, our till number remains the same, incase you wish to support us.5495849. Whatever you can, will go a mighty long way as am still not able to work. God bless you friends and please keep us in your prayers,” she added.


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September 2019