Gareth Thomas joined forces with inspirational professionals across health and sport on HIV Testing Week to discuss tackling HIV stigma and influencing positive change.

The 49-year-old spoke about the power of sport in shifting attitudes and behaviour surrounding sexual health as HIV Testing Week coincided with the Guinness Six Nations.

In a recent survey by Tackle HIV - the campaign led by Gareth Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and Terrence Higgins Trust - half of people said they would not consider taking an HIV test, with 44% saying they do not think they are at risk of HIV.

The virus does not discriminate and anyone can be affected, as Thomas encouraged as many people as possible to check their status through testing.

Thomas said: “This is a message that we’re trying to get through to everybody and it’s a really important time of the year for anybody who campaigns or advocates in this space.

“We want to break the stigma and get people to understand that HIV isn’t just a virus that affects gay and bisexual men, it can affect anyone.

“We’re also trying to help people understand the ease of testing – the accessibility to test in the comfort of your own home is now so simple.

“The stigma or misunderstanding of who the virus can affect is playing a part in late diagnosis so the earlier the diagnosis, the quicker somebody can get on treatment and lead a happy and healthy life.

“When you use this important time of the year – at the start of the Guinness Six Nations – it’s a great time to get people to really listen.”

The Tackle HIV campaign, founded by Thomas in partnership with the Terrence Higgins Trust and ViiV Healthcare, is an example of where sport can help bring about public education, understanding, and social change.

The former British and Irish Lions captain was joined by senior sexual health nurse and TV presenter Sarah Mulindwa, head of global patient affairs at ViiV Healthcare Dr. Nneka Nwokolo and former England rugby player and commentator Nolli Waterman.

Terrence Higgins Trust CEO Richard Angell led the panel and was encouraged by the discussions on breaking barriers and stigma around testing.

He said: “It’s a good way of letting people know that testing is available.

“It’s right to reach out for a test just so you know what your status is and there could not have been a better week to do it.

‘‘The thing holding people back from testing, from taking the medication, from taking HIV prevention drugs is stigma.

‘‘It’s that sense they’re going to be judged or that people are going to make some assessment about whether they’re responsible with their bodies or not.

‘‘The truth is, knowing your status is the first way that you can take control of your sexual health and it was great to sit on the panel and lead that discussion.”

Tackle HIV is a campaign led by Gareth Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and Terrence Higgins Trust and aims to tackle the stigma and misunderstanding around HIV. For more information visit and follow @tacklehiv