Gareth Thomas’ HIV announcement leads to surge in inquiries, charity says

Sabrina Barr
AFP/Getty Images

A charity reported a surge in calls and online inquiries after Gareth Thomas announced he is HIV positive.

The former Welsh rugby captain shared a video on Twitter last Saturday in which he revealed he has HIV and said blackmailers previously threatened to reveal his diagnosis.

Thomas immediately received an abundance of supportive messages, including posts on social media by the Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge.

Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading HIV, AIDS and sexual health charity, said that the day after Thomas’ announcement, it reported its busiest day of the year for web traffic.

Sunday was also the charity’s busiest day for HIV self-test orders since the organisation launched the service, at three times the usual rate.

The charity said it continued to note higher-than-usual web traffic and HIV self-test orders on Monday, two days after Thomas went public with his diagnosis.

Terrence Higgins Trust added that many of its web visitors were visiting the organisation’s page about being undetectable.

When a person who is on HIV medication is undetectable, this means that the levels of HIV in their blood are so low that the virus cannot be passed on, the charity explains.

Ian Green, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, praised Thomas for raising awareness about HIV in such a short space of time.

“Since Gareth Thomas took the courageous step of announcing he is living with HIV, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of people accessing information about HIV from our website and THT Direct telephone service,” Green said.

“Gareth has helped to smash misinformation and stigma about HIV by showing it will not stop him living life to the full. We know that stigma continues to hold us back in ending HIV transmissions.”

Green said that, according to a Terrence Higgins Trust poll, nearly half of people in Britain would not feel comfortable kissing someone who is HIV positive, even though it cannot be passed on in that way.

“Therefore it is so important to remove the fear associated with HIV if we are to reach zero new HIV transmissions by 2030 – which the UK government has committed to doing – so more people can come forward and get tested,” he said.

Thomas told the i he feels “overwhelmed” by the “positive reaction” to his HIV diagnosis.

“My message is about inspiring others to have the courage to speak out and not be afraid and to help educate people,” the 45-year-old said.

http://players.brightcove.net/624246174001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5837728067001

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On Wednesday evening, BBC aired documentary Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me.

The documentary followed Thomas as he learned more about the condition and sought to combat misunderstandings which continue to surround the subject.

If you need support or further information about HIV, you can contact the Terrence Higgins Trust helpline on 0808 802 1221. The helpline is open from 10am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.

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