Ex-Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas praised Harry after the pair took part in a video call in support of National HIV Testing Week.
10 February 2022
Former rugby star Gareth Thomas has paid tribute to the Duke of Sussex for wanting to be a voice for “everybody around the world” as he hailed his commitment to tackling injustice over HIV.
The ex-Wales captain and Harry released a 30-minute video chat to mark National HIV Testing Week, with Harry urging Britons to “go and get a test”.
They discussed how normalising HIV testing could help achieve the goal of ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030.
Thomas, a friend of the duke’s, told the PA news agency afterwards that Harry was in a “great place”, with a “sense of stability” and “sense of strength in who he is”.
In the video, Harry says: “Every single one of us has a duty, or at least an opportunity, to get tested ourselves or to make it easier for everybody else to get tested. And then it just becomes a regular thing like anything else.”
As part of National HIV Testing Week, which began on February 7, free HIV home test kits can be ordered in the UK at www.startswithme.org.uk or tests can be carried out at local sexual health or community clinics.
The Queen’s grandson embarked on a new life after stepping down as a senior working royal in what was a tumultuous period for both the duke and the monarchy.
Harry now lives with the Duchess of Sussex and their children Archie and Lilibet in California.
Thomas said: “I feel when you know someone, when you speak to them, and you get a sense of stability, you realise that he is a very committed family man with an understanding of who he is and understanding of what he represents and he takes great pride in that.
“So for me, I feel that when I speak to him, he is in a great place.”
He added: “I feel that’s why he has the ability to do what he does and have the conversation like he had with me because he has a sense of strength in who he is.”
The former sportsman, who revealed he was HIV positive in 2019 and set up the Tackle HIV campaign to end stigma around the illness, added: “He wants to be there, not just for an individual, but collectively, for everybody around the world.
“He wants to be a voice and he wants to continue the legacy that his mother started and I think again, that shows somebody who is very committed to creating a better environment for people globally where he feels there is a sense of injustice.”
Harry’s late mother Diana, Princess of Wales changed the global perception of HIV and Aids in the 1980s, through her interaction with Aids patients.
When Harry publicly took an HIV test alongside the singer Rihanna in 2016, the broadcast contributed to a 500% increase in the number of people requesting a test on the Terrence Higgins Trust website.
Thomas, who came out as the first openly gay rugby union player in 2009, stressed there were now more cases of heterosexual men or women testing positive in England than gay or bisexual men – the first time in a decade that new diagnoses among heterosexuals are higher.
He added: “I think it’s really important that we get the message out there around how simple testing is, how advanced it is, how easy it is – the fact that you can do it in the privacy of your own home.
“But also that everybody, regardless of your category, if you’re sexually active, needs to get tested.”
Harry told how HIV testing has dropped 30% during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thomas said afterwards: “Because people have been so focused on Covid, they’ve kind of forgotten about everything else… This is about bringing it back to the forefront because it hasn’t gone away.”
He added that he hoped that testing for Covid had eradicated the sense of fear over HIV testing.
“We understand that testing positive for Covid means that you have to do something. You isolate or you have to follow the protocol,” he said.
“You test positive for HIV – you just start treatment – you live a normal life, you just live a normal, happy, healthy life on treatment.”
But he warned of the importance of not leaving it too late, with earlier treatment being much more beneficial.
He spoke of the support Harry gave him both publicly and behind the scenes when he revealed his own diagnosis three years ago.
“He didn’t need to reach out to me. He didn’t need to be there in support of me. He chose to be there for me. It says so much about who he is,” Thomas said.
On the video call, Harry and Thomas greeted each other with the phrase “Hello bud. How you doing?”, with the duke later joking that the former sportsman was “way older” than him.
Thomas chuckled and responded by flexing one of his tattooed biceps and telling Harry: “I’ve got bigger guns than you, bud,” prompting Harry to laugh and mimic him by saying, “Oh, bigger guns”.
Tackle HIV, a campaign led by Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and the Terrence Higgins Trust, aims to tackle stigma and misunderstanding around HIV.
More information can be found at www.tacklehiv.org or by following @tacklehiv.
National HIV Testing Week is run by the Terrence Higgins Trust on behalf of the Department of Health.