Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has launched a new anti-stigma campaign Tackle HIV, in partnership with Viiv Healthcare.
The initiative will focus on improving levels of public understanding of HIV and breaking the stigma around the virus, including by bringing up-to-date information to new audiences through sport.
As we work towards ending HIV transmissions in the UK by 2030, it's crucial to challenge outdated beliefs about HIV. Gareth has had a big impact in this area since revealing he’s living with HIV last September.
To demonstrate the extent of the problem, Tackle HIV has conducted a survey of over 4,000 UK adults. It found:
- 61% of people surveyed said if they found out a potential partner was HIV they would or might end the relationship.
- The main reason for this was being worried about contracting HIV (81%).
Additionally, just 19% of respondents knew that if a person living with HIV is taking effective treatment, they can’t pass it on to a partner. This comes despite the message being endorsed by hundreds of organisations globally and based on evidence from two large studies conducted over many years.
The fact effective medication means Gareth can’t pass on HIV to his husband is something he wants everyone to know.
On the launch of the campaign, Gareth said: 'Since finding out I have HIV I have learnt so much about the virus and about how it affects people living with it. As our survey clearly demonstrates, HIV is still misunderstood and because of that stigma still exists.
'I have heard first hand stories of how deeply this stigma and self-stigma affect people living with HIV and I am determined to change this.
'That’s why I have started the Tackle HIV campaign with ViiV Healthcare. I am living with HIV and I am living a full and normal life. I am taking HIV treatment which is working. As such I cannot pass HIV onto my partner. Science and medicine are so advanced but public awareness and attitude lag behind. I am choosing to Tackle HIV, for myself and everyone living with HIV.'
We're the Tackle HIV charity partner. Ian Green, Chief Executive said: 'In under a year, Gareth’s already had a huge impact on public perceptions of what it means to live with HIV – but these survey results show there’s still a long way to go to stamp out the stigma still surrounding the virus.
'Gareth knows from his own experiences the negative impact stigma has on the lives of far too many people living with HIV and that’s why he’s so committed to doing something about it.
'We welcome the launch of Tackle HIV and its ambition to take the facts about HIV to as wide an audience as possible. We want to replace all of the outdated beliefs people are holding onto with the realities, including that someone living with HIV and on effective treatment – like Gareth – can’t pass it on to anyone else. Because we won’t end HIV transmissions in this country without also eradicating stigma and misinformation.'
Sir Elton John and David Furnish, Founder and Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, said: 'People living with HIV are not dangerous, they are not a threat to you, your friends, family or to society. We create barriers with our own ignorance. Science is winning the battle against the virus, but public misunderstanding and stigma are a long way behind.
We support Gareth and the Tackle HIV campaign to inspire us to learn and help make the changes we need to make in our society to end HIV/AIDS.'