“Rugby legend Gareth Thomas has been hiding a dark secret”
In an emotional trailer filmed for the BBC he explains why he has decided to speak out about his HIV status.
He wants to remember what it’s like to live again.
Remember what it’s like to feel free.
Empower the many other people who are living in the same position as him, but probably ten times worse, to feel free as well.
Those words, to feel free, to live our lives without having to hide, to feel empowered and not stigmatised against will resound like the toll of an iron bell within those of us who have been living with HIV for many years, or months, or even days. As we speak there will be men and women all over the world hearing that terrible diagnosis for the first time. I will never forget that day seventeen years ago and how my life changed forever. From the moment we are diagnosed we are set apart from the rest of humanity, many of us forced by stigma and ignorance to keep the “dark secret”, live a lie. And sadly the truth is we will never feel free whilst we are playing host to this unwanted virus, until there is a cure, until people’s attitude to HIV changes, until the message that u equals u gets through, that undetectable really means untransmittable.
The medical fact that if we are on medication and have an undetectable viral load we cannot pass the virus on, has been a game changer for us. We are no longer a danger, a threat to anyone, we can have sexual relationships, kiss people even bleed and not pass it on! A miracle really. The trouble is that most people don’t believe it. They are still living under the shadow of the giant tombstone advert and images of wasted bodies dying of AIDS.
What Gareth Thomas is doing for the HIV community is admirable and has already made a huge difference in raising awareness. Myself and many of my female colleagues have been speaking out for years but alas we are not celebrities so do not have a public profile. What we need now is a female celebrity who is positive to stand up and speak on our behalf. I don’t believe for one moment that there aren’t any. Almost half of the world’s HIV positive population are women and I don’t think many people realise that. The main thing that deters women from speaking out publicly is the very real fear that their children will be targeted.
When I first started this www.website hivine.com there weren’t many people blogging about HIV. I am proud to say that over the years It has received over seventeen million hits. Has it made any difference? I’d like to think so, but I don’t think the message, especially about u=u undetectable means untransmittable, is getting through to the wider audience.
In the past I have been refused treatments in the health and wellbeing sector and recently to my shame and humiliation it happened again. I had been struggling with a shoulder impingement which made cutting my toenails impossible. So I contacted AGE UK a nationwide service for people over 50 who on their website were offering a nail clipping service, only to be refused treatment on the grounds that I was HIV positive. I explained that I was undetectable and had been for 17 years, undetectable equals untransmittable etc. but it didn’t make any difference. Once again I was made to feel like a leper, an outcast to society, it was like receiving my HIV diagnosis all over again.
Thanks indeed to Gareth Thomas for being an HIV hero, but we, the positive women, need a woman celebrity to speak out for us. Until then all of us positive people living with HIV on a day to day basis, facing the health challenges and stigma which sadly is still rife, will have to find the hero within ourselves. So to end up with the words of the famous song………
And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That an HIV hero lies in you!