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The 80s and 90s, for LGBTQ+ people, was a time of immense fear and danger. The HIV Aids crisis was one that sought to threaten thousands of lives, leaving an entire generation scarred by the consequences of misinformation and a lack of education. Almost 30 years later the worry of living with HIV is something that still threatens the lives of LGBT+ people every single day. Despite this, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness and former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas are dispelling the stigma of living with the disease for an entirely new generation of people.
The pair’s recent revelations of having HIV is a crucial step in encouraging millions of young people to seek help and information regarding the disease. Quite frankly, the British education system and hundreds of education systems across the globe still treat same sex relations as something of a taboo; thus every single day countless lives are put at risk due to a reluctance to shed light on entire existences that are considered ‘political’. The necessity then for celebrities and role models like Van Ness and Thomas to be transparent and open regarding their status is critical in going forward.
Van Ness has millions of followers across the globe and is looked up to by LGBTQ+ people worldwide. As such, his openness regarding living with the disease and his candidness seek to encourage a dialogue between so many young people and their parents, friends, teachers and GPs. Having such a well-known, mainstream and current person as Van Ness being so brave and open seeks to reduce the mystique surrounding HIV, a remnant of a bygone age of homophobia and intolerance.
Thomas has an equally profound impact in his revelation of his HIV status. As a former Wales rugby captain and sporting personality, he has the ability to encourage and educate an entirely new demographic of people, and one often left behind and ostracised by the LGBT+ community. A sporting personality with the reputation of Thomas will not only reach thousands of budding athletes but will furthermore address the lack of any vocal professional LGBTQ+ athletes save for a notable minority. Hopefully this will increase openness and inclusivity within the sporting community in general.
The fact of the matter is that in 2019 having HIV should not be news. There are prevention methods and reliable ways of treating the disease. The idea that HIV is a death sentence is the remnant of a time long since passed. However, due to a reluctance to throw back the curtains and lay bare the facts, HIV and Aids is still a topical issue. The lives of countless misinformed young people with worries and fears over HIV have for decades been made worse by a festering anxiety, resulting in inaction. The courageousness and openness of Gareth Thomas and Jonathan Van Ness’s admission of living with HIV should without doubt serve as a beacon of hope to those lacking any. The disease is not something mutually exclusive with a life regulated by medication, but rather something that can be treated, allowing for an equally fulfilling life regardless of one’s status.