Gareth Thomas and HIV stigma: ‘It takes folks like him to combat towards it’

Split picture of George Westwood and Gareth ThomasImage copyright
George Westwood/Reuters

Gareth Thomas’ revelation that he has HIV will make “a complete new demographic of individuals” conscious of the situation, says George Westwood, who has lived with HIV for 18 months.

“The stigma nonetheless does exist and I feel it takes folks like Gareth to battle and take away that stigma,” says the 20-year-old.

He provides that it is “not essentially what it is doing to us bodily” which is a matter – the truth is, he says therapy for the virus is kind of easy.

For George, the social stigma and the unfavourable response he can get from different persons are what want to vary.

‘He’s an unbelievable position mannequin’

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Media captionGareth Thomas reveals he’s HIV constructive

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has spoken in regards to the “disgrace” and “concern” he felt conserving his situation secret earlier than revealing the analysis on Saturday evening.

He’s stated he now desires to indicate that individuals with HIV are misrepresented.

“Anyone who speaks publicly about dwelling with HIV is unbelievable and needs to attain the identical factor,” says George.

“They need people who find themselves dwelling with HIV to reside in truth and authentically.

“The stigma nonetheless does exist. And I feel it takes folks like Gareth to battle and take away that stigma.”

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George Westwood

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George has been dwelling with HIV for 18 months

George provides that Gareth Thomas’ profile within the sport world may assist get the message throughout to a wider viewers.

“He’s such an unbelievable position mannequin, particularly for younger people who find themselves into sports activities,” he says.

George compares it to when the ex-Wales and Lions participant – often known as Alfie – got here out as homosexual in 2009.

“He was opening up this entire new world and exhibiting that we exist, if you’ll, we’re in all places. And it is OK.

“It’s nice as a result of it is a complete new demographic of people that won’t usually hear these tales.”

‘You see HIV as a loss of life sentence’

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Media captionHIV Positive and proud: What’s with the stigma?

George says that, like Gareth, he is “had some extremely hateful issues [said] about me on-line.”

But – like Gareth – George says the response to his analysis from most individuals has been “overwhelmingly constructive – no pun supposed.”

“I’m very open with my standing now,” he says. “If somebody desires to be taught, then I’m prepared to talk to them.”

George is HIV-positive however undetectable. That means he cannot cross the virus on and it could possibly’t be detected by a blood check.

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Gareth Thomas is collaborating in an Ironman problem as a manner of demonstrating his bodily and psychological energy

“I’ve been refused two tattoos and refused a piercing simply primarily based on my HIV standing,” says George, who research in Birmingham.

“Every particular person dwelling with HIV will expertise unfavourable issues, but it surely’s nearly pushing by these limitations.”

George says that is simpler stated than completed and discovering you’ve HIV “makes you are feeling such as you’ve by no means felt earlier than. It makes your psychological well being hit the ground.

“You can push by it, but it surely’s laborious.”

He provides: “Unfortunately, the information that we appear to have or nonetheless have is from situations that had been again within the 1980s and 90s. I feel you see HIV as a loss of life sentence.”

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Gareth Thomas made 100 appearances for Wales and three appearances for the British and Irish Lions

The actuality for George is that dwelling with HIV would not have a lot of an impact on his day-to-day life.

“In phrases of the medical facet, it is not impactful in any respect – I feel that is why we have to converse out about it.

“Like Gareth stated – like many people say – after we come ahead, it is extra to do with the social stigmas which can be hooked up to it… not essentially what it is doing to us bodily.”

He provides that he acquired help from charities which assist folks by analysis.

“And by way of the psychological well being facet, it was nearly educating myself – and talking out for those who need assistance.”

Click here for help and support around HIV.

What is HIV?

  • HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus – the immunodeficiency is the weakening of the immune system by the virus.
  • It has been handed on between people for a lot of many years however was solely recognized within the early 1980s.
  • If left untreated, an infection with HIV progresses by a sequence of phases, resulting in late-stage HIV or Aids
  • HIV might be handed on by blood or semen however not handed on by spitting, sneezing, coughing, kissing or normal social contact.
  • There is now strong proof to say, with confidence, that individuals on effective HIV treatment cannot cross on the virus.
  • There are an estimated 94,100 folks dwelling with HIV within the UK, round 2,200 of them in Wales; 4,484 folks had been identified in 2018, a 28% decline since 2015.
  • 473 of the folks identified in 2018 had been aged 15-24.
  • As a results of mixture prevention – condom use, HIV-prevention drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), expanded HIV testing and of antiretroviral remedy – there was a 39% fall in analysis amongst homosexual and bisexual males since 2015
  • Sources: Terrence Higgins Trust and Public Health England

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