In a recent interview, Gareth Thomas, one of the first professional athletes in the UK to publicly come out gay, talked about being blackmailed into revealing he's HIV positive.

Last year, Thomas announced that he's HIV positive and that blackmailers had threatened to expose him. The revelation was followed by the BBC Wales documentary Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me.

Speaking with The Guardian, the rugby star (Thomas retired in 2011), said that he's angry that he was unable to control the timing of his coming out but happier now that he doesn't have to hide his status anymore.

“It felt more shameful [than coming out gay],” Thomas said, adding that he didn't believe people would understand.

Thomas said that a reporter asked his parents to comment about his HIV status.

“Then I had the phone call from my mother, in tears,” he said. “I have never felt like I was so far away from home in my entire life.”

“What this journalist didn't know is that my parents thought I was gonna die – they didn't know any different.”

Today, he says he's grateful that his status is public.

“I actually feel kind of empowered and feel like I live a freer, happier life when I don't have secrets,” he said.

“My life is so much better,” Thomas added. “I realized having HIV doesn't limit me; it actually challenges me to make sure that every moment of my life I live to my full potential. I really, really was convinced I was going to die. I don't feel like I've had this rebirth, but I do feel like I've had a rewiring. I'm okay with who I am. So it has changed my life, in an umbelievably positive way.”

Thomas, 45, is married to Stephen Williams-Thomas.