Prince Harry and Gareth Thomas to do something special and break HIV stigma

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas is planning to team up with the Duke of Sussex to raise awareness of HIV.

Thomas, 45, this weekend revealed he had the virus and vowed to ‘break the stigma’ after blackmailers put the former Great British Lion ‘through hell’ by threatening to expose his secret.

The pairs’ actions would build on the legacy laid down Diana, Princess of Wales, as they seek to change people’s attitudes towards HIV and AIDS.

Posting on his official Instagram channel Prince Harry wrote: ‘Gareth, you are an absolute legend! In sharing your story of being HIV+, you are saving lives and shattering stigma, by showing you can be strong and resilient while living with HIV.

‘We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you. – H.’

Prince Harry was not alone in his support for Thomas with his brother the Duke of Cambridge calling him ‘courageous as ever’, international rugby union referee Nigel Owens saying the Welsh flyer was ‘brave as ever’ and Dame Kelly Holmes saying he was a ‘legend’.

The ex-fullback and winger came out as gay in 2009 and is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with HIV.

HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, damages cells in the immune system making it harder for the body to fight everyday infections and disease.

Thomas told the Daily Mirror: ‘Like me, Prince Harry wants to break the stigma around HIV and he has already done a lot of great work.

‘We are planning to work together now. To do something with him will be really powerful.’

He told the paper: ‘Quite often I look at that photo of Diana at the clinic next to those frail-looking men and then I look at a photo of myself out on my bike and it motivates me because I can see how things have changed and advanced.’

The day after making the announcement Thomas finished the herculean 140-mile Ironman Wales triathlon, crossing the line with a 12 hours, 18 minutes and 29 seconds finish time – and a hug from his husband.

Visibly emotional, Wales’ former all-time leading try scorer was supported by parents Yvonne and Barry as the completed the Tenby course in 413th place out of 2,039 competitors.

In a video posted on Twitter on Saturday evening, Thomas said: ‘I am living with HIV.

‘Now you have that information that makes me extremely vulnerable, but it does not make me weak.

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

‘And that begins today when I take on the toughest ironman in the world in Tenby, and I push myself physically to the limit.’

The Duke of Sussex has been a long time supporter in the battle against the virus, taking a public HIV test alongside pop star Rihanna on World Aids Day in 2016 and launching a campaign with Sir Elton John to combat the spread of the virus.

The Duke and Sir Elton launched the MenStar coalition in 2018 to expand the diagnoses and treatment of HIV infections in men, ‘with the aim of ultimately ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030,’ Kensington Palace said.

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