Prince Harry and former Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas joined forces on Friday to raise awareness about HIV — and to beat the stigma associated with getting tested.
The pair met players from the King’s Cross Steelers, which is the world's first gay-inclusive rugby union club, ahead of National HIV Testing Week. Thomas recently revealed he was living with HIV and said he wanted to “break the stigma” around it.
In an interview with People, the sporting legend said that the Duke of Sussex showed a “real sign of bravery” when getting tested.
“[Harry] knows the stigma that’s out there, he knows the fear of people not wanting to be tested because they’re so afraid of what they don’t know, and he understands the lack of education out there,” he said. “So to stand up and actually take a test himself is a real sign of bravery, and a real sign of somebody who doesn’t want to just communicate to certain people, he wants to communicate to everybody.”
The event was hosted by Terrence Higgins Trust, a British charity which campaigns on and provides services relating to HIV and sexual health.
A photo shared by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Instagram page called Thomas an “excellent role model,” and said that Thomas demonstrated “that you can be HIV positive and live a healthy, strong, fulfilling life.”
“This morning, The Duke of Sussex joined forces with @gareththomasofficial and The Terrence Higgins Trust to raise awareness for National HIV Testing Week, which takes place from November 16th-22nd,” the post said. “The Duke has been a longtime advocate of HIV awareness, and of eradicating the stigma surrounding the virus - an extension of his mother’s legacy. Not enough people know that thanks to the work of so many over the years, HIV is no longer a death sentence and testing for it is quick and easy.”
It continued: “Today the Duke shared the magnitude of having someone like Gareth Thomas, one of our most legendary Welsh rugby players, demonstrate that you can be HIV positive and live a healthy, strong, fulfilling life. Gareth is an excellent role model for anyone living in fear, and an amazing example of both physical and mental strength.”
Thomas originally revealed he was living with HIV in a video posted to Twitter in which he stated he was put “through hell" by blackmailers who wanted to expose his status. The video has been viewed over 2 million times since being posted.
Prince William expressed support for Thomas on the Kensington Palace Twitter page following the interview in which he called the former Rugby player “courageous as ever.”
Harry has worked for several years to erase the stigma surrounding HIV. The Duke of Sussex has gotten tested numerous times, including once with Rihanna in 2016.
Thomas was recently named a member of the Trust's HIV Commission and said "the support from the royals has been magnificent,” according to People.
"And it's not just for me," he said, "it's to show that we accept people living with HIV and that carries an enormous weight."