In a cover interview with Men's Health, out UK rugby star Gareth Thomas talks about coming out first as gay and then as HIV-positive.

The 45-year-old Thomas came out publicly as gay in 2009 and retired from the sport in 2011. In September, he announced that he's living with HIV.

He said that he decided to “share his secret” after being put “through hell” by tabloid blackmailers who threatened to expose his status.

“When I came out as gay, I always wanted to show a sign of strength. I'd always fight to be the strongest,” Thomas told the UK edition of Men's Health.

“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,” he said.

Thomas came out HIV-positive in a video posted on social media. He said that living with HIV has made him “vulnerable … but not weak.”

“Even though I have been forced to tell you this, I choose to fight, to educate, and break the stigma around this subject,” he said.

Thomas is the subject of the BBC Wales documentary Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me.