Rugby legend Gareth Thomas has inspired tens of thousands of people to get advice on HIV by revealing his diagnosis and helping to tackle the stigma around the condition.
The NHS webpage for HIV and AIDS had a 12-fold increase in visits on the day the former British Lions captain, 45, bravely told his story.
And demand for self-test kits also increased three-fold after he spoke out in our sister paper the Sunday Mirror.
The Welsh star revealed he had been living with the condition for years and hoped speaking about his experience would help others.
On that day, more than 16,300 visited the NHS webpage on HIV and AIDs, compared with an average 1,300 in the week before.
Gareth was the first UK sportsman to reveal he has the virus and medics have hailed him for challenging the discrimination that sufferers face.
Dr Michael Brady, the NHS’s top specialist for LGBT health, told the Mirror: “Gareth has shown great courage in speaking out about his diagnosis.
“His actions have shown that, with the right treatment and care, you can be HIV positive, live a full and healthy life and be confident that you cannot pass the virus on to others.
"By speaking out he has done a huge amount to tackle HIV stigma and discrimination.
“His announcement has already had a direct impact on people’s lives.”
Former rugby union and league star Gareth told how he sobbed in the arms of a doctor upon hearing his diagnosis and feared he would die.
He also revealed that he initially felt like ending it all by driving his car over a cliff, before realising that he could still lead a normal life.
People living with the virus and on effective treatment cannot pass it on.
Most people infected with HIV experience a short, flu-like illness that occurs in the first weeks after infection.
After this, there may be no symptoms for several years.
NHS England now prescribes antiretroviral treatment immediately to all adults and teenagers when they are diagnosed with HIV.
It prevents transmission and suppresses the virus.
Dr Brady, who also works as a HIV consultant, added: “The NHS is determined to carry on making progress towards eliminating HIV and we are working with partners in public health, local government and the voluntary sector to achieve our goal of zero new HIV transmissions by 2030.”
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