It’s National HIV Testing Week in the UK. To mark the occasion, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, had a 30-minute video chat with gay, former rugby player Gareth Thomas.
The Welsh sporting legend publicly revealed he was living with HIV in 2019 after tabloid newspapers threatened to out him.
During the video chat, the Prince urged people to “go and get a test” and to “know your status”
Prince Harry described himself as “a typical guy” who just wants to “fix things”, and said he feels an “obligation” to try to continue his late mother’s bid to remove stigma surrounding the virus
His mom, the late Princess Diana, famously visited AIDS wards in the 1980s and made headlines for holding the hands of gay men who were ill with the virus. At the time, this simple gesture helped tackle some of the stigma faced by those living with HIV.
“I could never fill her shoes, especially in this particular space,” Harry said, “but because of what she did and what she stood for and how vocal she was about this issue… it’s a converging of all these different pieces.”
“There’s a way out of it, and if there’s a way out of it and we know there’s a solution, I’m like a typical guy. I just want to help fix things.”
This is not the first time Harry has campaigned to raise awareness around HIV. On two previous occasions, he has been filmed getting an HIV test, including in December 2016 when he did so with Rihanna in Barbados on World AIDS Day. He has also been to countries such as Lesotho and Botswana, where HIV has previously had a devastating impact.
Asked by Thomas why he cared about this issue, Harry said, “Once you get to meet people and you see the suffering around the world, I certainly can’t turn my back on that. Then add in the fact that my mum’s work was unfinished, I feel obligated to try and continue that as much as possible.”
“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.
“This testing week, especially in the UK, or wherever you are in the world, go and get a test. Let people know that you know your status. Do it.”
Thomas talked about his own diagnosis and the reality of living with HIV in 2022.
“It wouldn’t be scary if you understood what living with HIV in 2022 is,” he said, adding that it gave him more of “an appreciation of life”.
“I take a moment at 6am … I take my HIV medication which is one tablet, and I feel that my day then begins. I’m very active, I go to the gym, I work as hard as I possibly can, and I think with that appreciation of life comes this sense of not being selfish.”
A condition he “thought would be a life-ending condition, it’s actually turned into being a life-affirming condition”, he said.
The video call came after recently released data in England revealed that more heterosexual people are acquiring HIV nowadays than gay and bisexual men. At the start of the week, the UK Health Security Agency revealed half of all new HIV infections were in heterosexual people (50%) in England in 2020, compared to 45% in gay and bisexual men.
The country has seen a 71% drop in HIV diagnoses in gay/bi men since 2014. This has been fueled by encouraging people to get tested and on to treatment if positive. Once undetectable, they cannot pass the virus on. PrEP was also finally approved by the country’s national health service, the NHS, in 2020, and that’s believed to have further cut transmission rates.