Ideas Fest speaker, welsh rugby legend, and HIV advocate Gareth Thomas is encouraging people to have more ‘uncomfortable’ conversations around HIV in order to help educate people and destigmatise the virus.

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Gareth who publicly revealed he had the virus in 2019, after being told his secret was going to leak, now runs the awareness initiative Tackle HIV, which is on a mission to combat the misconceptions that live around HIV.

“We need to educate people about HIV, we need to correct the myths that exist around it once and for all and we need to break the stigma that surrounds HIV,” says Gareth.  

HIV is a hugely underrepresented virus that needs far more awareness and understanding. Though the virus has come so far in recent years, with medication making it treatable, and the stigma lessening, people tend to forget that there are still around 107 thousand people suffering from the virus currently in the UK. 

On his latest mission to break the stigma around the topic, Tackle HIV’s Myth Bus is currently touring the UK in order to get people talking and open the doors to conversations that may not have happened otherwise. 

The Myth Bus Tour launched at the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 2 and will be visiting Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and London to offer educational information on HIV as well as encourage and offer testing advice, information and test kits to the public.

Speaking to WalesOnline about the campaign, Gareth said: “It’s great to get the bus going and I’m excited to take it to places where you wouldn’t expect to see or have that conversation.

“In two weeks’ time we’re going to Harlequins when they play London Irish, and we’re going to set up in the car park and make what are probably uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable places around this subject, a little bit more normal and a little bit more comfortable.”

Talking about the topics discussed on the bus Gareth said that there are facts about the virus that will definitely surprise people. “Globally 54% of the people living with HIV are female, a few facts like that meant people were realising the importance of the message and getting this message to everyone,” he said. 

The bus also has a testing station upstairs where people can get tested for the virus in a safe and comfortable environment where no conversation is off-limits! 

Find out more about Tackle HIV’s work here.