Gareth Thomas 2

Gareth Thomas determined to bust the myths around HIV

Not since his days as a Welsh rugby international had Gareth Thomas faced nerves like those which greeted him backstage in New York before delivering a TED Talk on banishing the ongoing stigma around HIV.

But with that challenge successfully negotiated and a global audience made aware of his message, the 48-year-old is now hoping to carry the momentum into a campaign closer to home.

The Tackle HIV Myth Bus Tour will launch at the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 2 and go on to visit Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, and London, offering educational information on HIV as well as encouraging and offering testing advice, information and test kits to the public.

And fresh from his trip across the Atlantic, Thomas sees this as the next step in his mission to be proactive in sharing vital knowledge about the virus and quashing myths still commonly held.

“Just as stigma evolves, you have to evolve the fight against stigma,” he said.

“We want to grasp the attention of people who usually wouldn’t be listening to these kinds of things or feel they don’t need a test”.

“The TED Talk was an example – that is a global stage. We worked hard to get that platform and I was honoured to be the one delivering it, amongst some truly exceptional individuals and speakers”.

“Waiting to go on stage, seeing someone give a perfectly prepared speech and knowing I was going next, it was a journey back to standing in a tunnel before a Wales game, be it against England or a World Cup game.

“It mirrored those emotions but also gave me a sense of belief, knowledge and empowerment as I’ve been there before. I realised what I needed to do to make sure I was a success for the campaign and for others living with HIV.”

The provision for testing as part of the Myth Bus Tour is particularly crucial, with Thomas drawing attention to a 2022 Tackle HIV public survey which revealed only 45% of people would consider taking an HIV test.

The former full-back believes initiatives like the Myth Bus Tour are integral to spreading the word, with representatives from the Terrence Higgins Trust on hand to aid the process.

“Hopefully, the bus will give a sense of friendly anonymity which sometimes you won’t get at a sexual health clinic,” Thomas said.

“We are trying to create that safe space where people can talk about things to people with knowledge.

“The time between testing and getting the result can be petrifying.

“If it’s a positive result, that first person you have contact with has to be someone who can be reassuring and knowledgeable – and that’s what you get with the Terrence Higgins Trust.”

The Myth Bus Tour will launch at the Cardiff Half Marathon

Thomas launched the Tackle HIV campaign in June 2020, with Prince Harry and Sir Elton John among those to have lent their support to various awareness initiatives in the time since.

The Bridgend native is pleased with the difference that has been made to date but has no plans to slow down.

“There’s also a lot of people we haven’t yet got to, there are a lot of corners of this country and the globe I’d like to be able to reach and get to, and I’m determined to do so” he said.

“I was successful in my rugby career as I had massive drive and ambition to be able to look back and say the sacrifices were worthwhile. I got that sense through sport, and I want to get it through this campaign.

“I want to keep having uncomfortable conversations until they are no longer uncomfortable.”

Tackle HIV, a campaign led by Gareth Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and the Terrence Higgins Trust, aims to tackle the stigma and misunderstanding around HIV. Visit and follow @tacklehiv

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