Gareth Thomas

HIV not a barrier to living life to the full, says Gareth Thomas

In late 2019, Gareth Thomas announced to the world that he was HIV positive and chose to do so whilst competing in a 140-mile Ironman triathlon.

The former Wales rugby international has continued to demonstrate that living with HIV need not be a barrier to achieving anything, and to celebrate how far science and medicine have come in the last few decades.

Last weekend Thomas took part in the Royal Windsor Triathlon alongside celebrity friends Jenni Falconer and Perri Shakes-Drayton to raise awareness for the work of his charity, Tackle HIV.

Thomas was joined by the household names in Berkshire as the former Wales rugby union international continues to break down the barriers and stigma that surround Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

In addition to Shakes-Drayton and Falconer, the 49-year-old was joined on the course by fellow HIV awareness campaigner, Becky Mitchell, and others who live day to day with the virus.

“It is great to have a team with you,” Thomas said. “I always have been part of a team, and Tackle when it started was never about me, it was about the community we represent. 

“That ultimately is a team as well. To have people that work every day, work tirelessly, sometimes don’t get a thank you it was great recognition for them.

“Then for Perri Shakes-Drayton, a world champion, Jenni Falconer who is a household name, their ally-ship and support for us magnifies that message and magnifies our message to a person that is interested in what they do, but not necessarily what we do. 

“Having that celebrity support, having that ViiV support and the support of other people that live with HIV, doing these kinds of things, is really, really important because this campaign has and never will be about me.”

Since Thomas disclosed his positive status in 2019, the 100-cap rugby union international has campaigned tirelessly to improve the public’s knowledge of the illness.

Set up by Thomas and ViiV Healthcare, with support from the Terrence Higgins Trust, Tackle HIV hope that through tackling the stigma surrounding HIV can make a difference to people living with and affected by the virus.

Falconer was more than happy to don her running shoes for the 10km stretch of the relay triathlon and to draw attention to Tackle HIV’s efforts.

“A little while ago, I got a call from Gareth asking me if I would be part of his team here to raise awareness for Tackle HIV,” Falconer said.

“I just think it’s important to spread the word, spread the message so that everybody realises that it doesn’t stop you doing amazing stuff like a triathlon. It is absolutely possible. 

“There is a big group of us doing it today and all to raise awareness for this charity.

“I am very encouraging about doing something that takes someone out of their comfort zone. 

“I also think it is brilliant to be active and get out there. 

“If you are someone living with HIV, you can take part, there is no reason why you couldn’t. It was a no-brainer.”

Shakes-Drayton was inspired to take part after meeting Thomas when filming Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins and jumped at the chance to help raise awareness of the Tackle HIV campaign.

“We were sat next to each other on the plane and he told me his story,” Shakes-Drayton said.

“I was sat there thinking ‘wow, this man is amazing’. We gelled almost instantly. 

“When he messaged me to say that he wanted me to be a part of this triathlon, I was like, why not? 

“The fact that I could do my bit to run, to raise awareness and we have raised awareness for HIV and the stigma that comes with it. 

“It was such an easy decision to be a part of it. I love to run and he is a great guy. 

“He is a testament, the embodiment of someone living with HIV and not letting any barriers get in their way.”

Gareth Thomas and six Tackle HIV relay teams are undertaking the Royal Windsor Triathlon to demonstrate that living with HIV need not be a barrier to achieving anything, and to raise funds for Terrence Higgins Trust. Tackle HIV is a campaign led by Gareth Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and Terrence Higgins Trust and aims to tackle the stigma and misunderstanding around HIV. For more information visit and follow @tacklehiv

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