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Medisense watches... HIV and Me

Blogger Nathan reviews the Gareth Thomas' documentary 'HIV and Me' and explains some of the stigma around HIV.

On 18th September 2019 ex-Welsh rugby and British and Irish Lions captain Gareth Thomas released his TV programme entitled ‘HIV and Me’ on BBC. The show was in response to an attempt by tabloid newspapers to reveal Gareth’s HIV positive status, a secret which he wanted to keep to himself.

The show was emotive; Gareth speaks openly about his struggles coming to terms with the diagnosis which can, for many people, be devastating. He is seen having conversations with his parents and closest friends, all of whom support his decision to release his status to the public in such a brave way.

A key focus of the show was to break down some of the stigma surrounding a diagnosis of HIV. It was mentioned that ‘in the UK, people who are diagnosed early have the same life expectancy as people who do not have HIV.’ There was frequent mention of the media’s sensationalism in its coverage of HIV and AIDS, which prevents public perceptions of HIV moving past those of the 1980s when AIDS-related infections were at their peak incidence. To try and fight the stigma, Gareth revealed that he was going to take part in his first Iron Man triathlon in September before the show’s release. This event consists of a 2.4mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride and a full marathon (26 miles). He was to give himself 6 months of training for the event, despite not being able to swim at the time of recording, in order to show the public that people with HIV can compete at the height of physical performance.

Gareth is HIV positive, but his viral load is so low that his HIV is described as undetectable. He speaks with various people on the show about the Undetectable = Untransmittable or U=U campaign, which aims to promote the message that HIV treatment can be so effective that people who have undetectable viral loads cannot pass on HIV to others.

The whole show was eye-opening. I would strongly recommend that everybody watches the programme, but especially medical professionals. It was a privilege to hear the story in such an open and courageous way, and it has undoubtedly improved my understanding and awareness of what it is like to live with HIV.  

The programme is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Guest Blog: Nathan Kelly, 02.11.2019


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