Aussie Olympic Gymnast Announces He’s HIV+
A gay Australian gymnast has revealed this week that he is HIV-positive.
Ji Wallace told the Australian website the Star Observer in a letter that he was infected with the virus. Wallace, a trampolinist who won a silver medal during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, said he was inspired to reveal his HIV status after watching an interview with U.S. diver Greg Louganis, who is also gay and HIV-positive.
"I have been contemplating writing this for a while," Wallace wrote. "I caught a CNN Piers Morgan interview with Greg Louganis here in London. It made me think and think and I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote."
"I felt inspired to write. I too am an Olympic medal winner living with HIV," Wallace said. "I have never publicly disclosed this before but felt inspired by [the] interview... and by Anderson Cooper’s ’coming out’ letter last month describing ’value in being seen and heard’ in the face of disturbing violence, bullying, persecution and condemnation by peers, colleagues, government officials and worst of all family and friends."
Louganis won four gold medals during his career as an Olympic diver but the athlete found himself at the center of controversy because he did not disclose that he was HIV-positive during the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
During an event, Louganis hurt himself and bled while he as in the pool. But Wikipedia notes that his blood in the pool "actually posed about zero risk" of anyone else contracting the deadly disease. Dr. John Ward, chief of HIV-AIDS surveillance at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the blood was diluted by thousands of gallons of water and "chlorine kills HIV."
Wallace is currently in London to watch the men’s trampoline event and is the guest of honor at a number of functions, including the Olympic Pride House, which is a location designated for LGBT athletes and fans.
"I am doing it to raise awareness of this issue. It is still here," Wallace told the website. "Being seen does have value. A voice does have value. I have the support of my boyfriend, my great friends and my loving parents. Many do not and this is, in part, for them."
The gymnast publicly came out in 2005 and is currently performing with Cirque Du Soleil.
Although there are more than 10,000 athletes competing at the London games, Out Sports reported there are only 23 openly gay sports stars, the Associated Press noted.
"It’s an absurdly low number," said site co-founder Jim Buzinski. He added that compared to other fields, such as the arts or politics, "sports is still the final closet in society."
This article is part of our "2012 Summer Olympics" series. Want to read more?
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