Prince Harry and former rugby star Gareth Thomas joined together to talk about the importance of being tested for HIV.
Thomas and Harry met with players on the King’s Cross Steelers team, the first gay rugby club, and rugby club Harlequins to discuss the health issue. This event was the prince’s idea, which he initiated by texting his support of Thomas after the latter revealed his HIV status.
“It started as him just wanting to show his support to me,” said Thomas, according to Entertainment Tonight Canada. “When you have something in common with someone, regardless of where you both come from, you have some kind of common ground and from that we’ve been in regular contact, yes about today, but also just about being mates to each other because we both want to drive things forward together,” the former Rugby star said.
Gareth Thomas was one of the first high-profile UK athletes to come out as gay. He did so back in 2009. Then earlier this year, the former rugby star announced that he was HIV-positive.
Again, Harry decided to reach out to Gareth Thomas after the latter made the announcement. The prince says the issue of HIV and getting tested is one of great importance. As such, having Thomas as the figurehead of such talks would be greatly beneficial.
“We’ve been looking for somebody like this, arguably somebody better looking,” Harry said during the event, according to DailyMail. “This whole conversation, this topic has needed somebody like him for many, many years.”
Like his mother Diana before him, Prince Harry has expressed extreme interest in ending the stigma around HIV and AIDS statuses while also combating the disease intensely. Harry has thus created initiatives and events to spotlight this cause. Not only did he spearhead this event with Thomas, but Prince Harry has also taken an HIV test while live on Facebook, insisted on the need for HIV testing to be seen as “completely normal,” and worked with HIV/AIDS advocate Tlotlo Moilwa to help young people living with HIV.
Thomas noted how Harry has “done so much to normalize HIV testing and fight the stigma across the globe.”
Thomas then added that Harry and his own personal experience has compelled him to be a vocal advocate as well.
“Going public with living with HIV has been very empowering and I want to help others to show them they don’t need to live in fear and live in shame, because you can still live with HIV and be healthy and live a normal life. The support from the royals has been magnificent. And it’s not just for me, it’s to show that we accept people living with HIV and that carries an enormous weight.”
To honor this initiative and the impact his coming out as HIV-positive has already had, Gareth Thomas was named a member of the HIV Commission, created by NAT (National AIDS Trust) and Terrence Higgins Trust.
In response to this appointment, Thomas said:
“This is something that I am unbelievably honoured about, becoming an HIV commissioner with a group of people who plan to end zero new transmissions of HIV in England in the next 10 years, and that’s the first country in the world to do that.”
“I have a little platform, I don’t know how big it is but I know I have a platform, and I understood why there are so many people living in fear, living in shame, because I lived in fear and I lived in shame.”