Prince Harry gave a big hug to HIV-positive rugby player Gareth Thomas

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, visits the Twickenham Stoop in London

A few months ago, rugby player Gareth Thomas came out and told the world about his HIV-positive status. He did not really do it on his own terms. One of the British tabloids outed his status TO HIS PARENTS, and after that, Gareth Thomas spoke publicly about his status. He’s become an outspoken advocate for getting HIV-tested and more. Well, Prince Harry is the patron to the British Rugby Association (or whatever it’s called) AND Harry is a big activist around HIV/AIDS. So when Harry did an event with Gareth this morning in London, Harry made sure to give a big hug to Gareth in front of the cameras. It reminds me so much of what Princess Diana did and would have done.

Prince Harry and a sporting legend joined forces on Friday to help highlight the need for more understanding about HIV — and to beat the stigma surrounding testing. Harry teamed up with rugby player Gareth Thomas, who recently revealed he was living with HIV. Thomas has received the support of both the prince and his brother Prince William for opening up about his status and educating the public about his diagnosis.

Harry, who has taken on his late mother Princess Diana’s cause of educating the public about HIV, met at the rugby club Harlequins, in southwest London, to mark National HIV Testing Week, which starts on November 16. Harry, 35, has undergone two HIV tests in public in recent years – one alongside singer Rihanna in 2016.

During his visit on Friday, Harry met with players from Harlequins’ men’s and women’s teams, as well as inclusive rugby club Kings Cross Steelers, who will share how much of an impact Thomas has had since speaking out about his status. The event was hosted by Terrence Higgins Trust, the largest voluntary sector provider of HIV and sexual health services in the U.K. It recently established an independent HIV Commission with National AIDS Trust to develop recommendations for an effective action plan to help reach the ambitious goal of ending new HIV transmissions in England by 2030.

[From People]

I’m… trying to remember the last time I saw Prince William warmly greet anyone with a full-body hug. Has it ever happened? Anyway, long story short, there’s still a huge stigma around getting tested and there’s still a huge stigma around HIV-positive people. Harry has been doing this work for years, before he even met Meghan. He feels passionately about it. And we stan.

Also: Omid Scobie reports that Harry has scheduled an event for November 17th. But what about the “six week break” everyone was going on about? Oh, wait, it was always bulls–t?

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, visits the Twickenham Stoop in London

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, visits the Twickenham Stoop in London

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, visits the Twickenham Stoop in London

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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51 Responses to “Prince Harry gave a big hug to HIV-positive rugby player Gareth Thomas”

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  1. Cidy says:

    Harry is obviously very passionate about this and I think its great that he can use his status to draw attention and remove stigma, so much kudos. The royal job *in my opinion* is not to fix anything, just to draw attention, remove stigmas, bring conversation etc. So hes good at that.

    As for the big hug vs. William’s greetings. Listen, I’m not a William fan. I think hes like unflavored oatmeal. But I’m not going to judge the guy for not hugging people or having the warmest “outer” greeting. That’s not the way I do things either. I work in corporate banking and we do lots of charities and stuff and I just dont, I’m not a toucher. So I’m not going to say or insinuate that William cares less because he doesnt go around hugging folks. I really truly think that William has RBF, and I’ve been dragged in my workplace for not being “warm” – so I’m not going to do that.

    Although the context is different because I’m a black woman who people think is angry and hes a rich white dude who people think looks miserable.

    • Chaine says:

      Same here Cidy, I care deeply but I am not a touchy feely person and I like William would not just naturally hug a stranger.

    • Lilly (with the double-L) says:

      I love this. Many Native people aren’t super touchy-feely, some more so if you’re close or spent a few years getting to know them. Like I said, though, it’s not a pan-Tribal fact. So, I get it too with Prince William and he can be pretty warm in certain settings. But, yes, Harry and Meghan are more compelling and genuine imo. Having been in some tough negotiations around Tribal rights the last few days, I get stuck with the stereotypical “stoic” judgment. Anyway, @Cidy love your whole post.

    • Ravensdaughter says:

      Just like his mum…

    • Yup, Me says:

      I agree with everything you shared here. I just wanted to say that my mind translated RBF as “Royal Bitch Face” and now I really want that to be a thing.

  2. Mumbles says:

    In William’s limited defense….he may just not be a hugger. A lot of people aren’t. The author Roxane Gay often comments on her Twitter how she doesn’t mind handshakes, or meeting fans and chatting with them, but when they hug her, it makes her uncomfortable.

    But I think most non-huggers would be fine with a hearty handshake.

    • Mignionette says:

      William and Kate have that typical upper class stiff upper lip and body language to go with it. That aside it’s clear that William is very different from Harry. Harry is more comfortable with warm body gestures which is mirrored by Meghan.

      As an aside observing Will and Kate, they often appear physically out of sync. So it’s not just a matter of their conditioning or reluctance to show pda’s. They just seem out of sync in general which is very typical of the push/ pull that happens in co-dependent couples with an un-equal power dynamic.

      • Nahema says:

        I agree. William and Kate both look awkward and uncomfortable but I think that’s just their way. Plenty of people are not tactile. I work in a place where everyone is always hugging I find it all very awkward. Even if I try to fake it, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

    • Marigold says:

      Yeah, I mean I like hugs, but only from people I know well enough that hugging is normal. I don’t want to hug someone I’ve never met. I don’t like being touched very much by strangers, and I don’t like being embraced–which feels like being held down to me–by anyone I don’t actually love.

      The only exception to this is in times of extreme emotion–good or bad–when someone else near me (or me, if it happens to be the case) clearly needs to be held for a minute.

      I’ve been accused of being intimidating and cold because I put off a “don’t touch me” vibe when people start getting all huggy for no reason. /shrug.

      I’m not cold. I’m very affectionate. I just don’t want you to full-body squeeze me. I still don’t get why that’s considered a bad thing.

  3. Yamayo says:

    Harry is always very tactile with sportsmen.

    It’s a public school thing. :)

  4. Aurora says:

    I can’t believe I’m going to defend William because I hate his smug face but some people just aren’t huggers.

    That said, Harry just seems more warm and friendly in general.

  5. Case says:

    I have to defend William here. I’m very much not a hugger. It makes me uncomfortable when people I don’t know well try to hug me (and sometimes even when people I DO know try to hug me, lol). I’m not touchy-feely. I’m friendly and I’m fine with handshakes, but I honestly think I come off a bit cold compared to the super jovial huggers of the world.

    It was actually very awkward when I started my current job — my coworkers were like “we’re huggers here!” and gave me a hug after our first meeting (I typically work remotely and only see them occasionally). I think they could tell I was uncomfortable, because they’ve since ceased any hugging in my presence, lol.

    • Brandy Alexander says:

      I once started a new job and on my first day one of the ladies on my team came up to me and wrapped me in a bear hug. After we got to know each other, she told me she almost died inside when she saw the look on my face as she hugged me with my stiff arms straight down. I like to think I am a warm and engaging person, but I find hugging people without an established personal relationship very awkward.

    • Abby says:

      William very much is a hugger but only about football. That’s it. He will hug anyone and everyone if his team wins.

    • Erinn says:

      My family loses their minds when I hug them because I have NEVER been a hugger. Even as a kid, the only time I really got mushy was when I was sick and wanted to be comforted.

      The idea of hugging people I don’t know well makes me soooo uncomfortable, lol. And add that I have an increased pain response to stimuli that SHOULDN’T be painful (thanks fibromyalgia) so hugging sometimes genuinely feels painful.

      And I come from a family of huggers for the most part. There’s only one or two others that I can think of that aren’t huggers.

      And it doesn’t mean that I WON’T hug anyone. But they’re pretty quick, and sometimes side hugs haha. But I really will only initiate a hug with a select few people.

      Some people are just so warm and genuine though, that I’ll give in and let them get the nurturing out of their system and it won’t bother me at all.

  6. Chelle says:

    I didn’t think I was a hugger or touchy-feely but I actually am. It usually comes out after someone has told me their story or we’ve had warm interactions. Sometimes at work my colleagues will say, without snark, “you want to hug me, don’t you” and I will respond “you know you want a hug, so stop playing; come on, bring it in”.

    Related / unrelated: I was in a funk for a few weeks. Pissed off and unsettled to boot. I talked to everyone I knew about it and tried everything I knew to do to get over it and move on. Weeks later it hit me. I just needed a hug. 😂☺️ I didn’t know to ask for that though. How ironic.

  7. kerwood says:

    I don’t like William one bit but I can understand if he’s not a ‘hugger’. Some people aren’t. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen William greet someone with any kind of warmth and I do judge that. Physical contact is one thing but to be unable to embrace someone emotionally or show any kind of empathy is another and William is definitely lacking in that.

    But my mind goes back to that young boy walking behind his mother’s coffin. We don’t know what that did to William. He probably bears scars that NOBODY knows about. Harry is the lucky one. He’s never had the pressure put on him that William has; he’s free to wear his heart on his sleeve. Harry is also just much more likable than William.

    I think William is a nasty piece of work but with the childhood he had, in THAT family, the odds were definitely stacked against him.

    • Erinn says:

      I’m actually going to have to agree with you, here. William is an adult and responsible for his own actions now. But I don’t doubt for a moment that there is A LOT of trauma there because how couldn’t there be? It’s traumatic enough to lose a parent suddenly, but add on the fact that it seems 99% of their family is so emotionally closed off. Imagine having to internalize that at a young age. I also think, as the big brother, he kind of felt like he had to close off and be a bit stronger because of it. And I can also imagine that that would cause some resentment issues for BOTH brothers in the long run.

      I don’t think William deserves any sort of pass for bad behavior, but I do think it’s important to think about all the factors that led William to be this way.

    • notasugarhere says:

      Having watched them since they were young? William has always been a pill, always hitting other kids and teachers, Diana spanking him in public because of his behavior, staff and visitors say he was a sly terror of a child. His basic personality was established very young, regardless of what else has occurred in his life.

  8. S says:

    Wow some people really identify with not being a hugger. Who knew it was such a polarizing issue!

  9. Loretta says:

    Harry is so much like Diana. He has her spirit.

    • carisel says:

      This is why I will always love Diana. My uncle was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987. I can remember being in the hospital with him and the doctors and nurses were treating him like he had leprosy. When Diana first hugged that AIDS patient, that made such a difference. My uncle is long gone, but I will always remember what Diana did for AIDS patients.

  10. Jadedone says:

    I do not live in the UK or follow rugby so I had no idea about what happened to Gareth. I cannot believe there are no ramifications for the crap journalist that released his HIV status to his parents, that is unbelievable. I wish him all the best and I hope some rich benefactor decides to pay for lawyers to sue the tabloid for Gareth.

  11. PsychoBot says:

    Same. Unless it’s an emotionally charged situation and we’re familiar, please don’t touch me. I don’t want to be hugged, I don’t want you to touch me while talking to me. William may not to touchy, it’s not a personality flaw that makes him ‘less than’ Harry.

    Meghan is also very tactile, I wonder if some recipients get uncomfortable w those full on hugs.

  12. Marie says:

    I have seen William hug someone when his team won. He just isn’t affectionate.

    Harry is genuine and often greets people with hugs. These two are like night and day.

  13. He he says:

    People who aren’t huggers should not be condemned for it. I work with some great nurses and they don’t hug their patients. However my patients love to give hugs and I hug back/ however I would not call
    Someone who is not a hugger cold. That’s marginalizing

  14. Lizzieb says:

    Question. Is there still a stigma about being tested for hiv. I’ve been tested regularly all of my adult life and thought it was normal as part of my screening when I had my pap. I went to a new gyno and noticed they forgot to do this and asked for it and was treated to a whore of Babylon moment. What has everyone else found?

    • Lady D says:

      As far as I know, I’ve never been tested for HIV as part of a pap test or for any other reason. I’m now wondering if I was tested during the smears. I’m going to have to ask my doctor.

    • A says:

      There’s still a lot of stigma around getting tested for HIV/AIDS, just like there’s been a lot of stigma around testing for a variety of sexually transmitted infections. People still think you’ve got to be a dirty dirty slut who sleeps around in bar washrooms to get an STI. All this stigma does is give people more of an excuse to keep it hidden, to not get tested, and spread the disease even further. And a lot of it comes from medical professionals. I’m not surprised that you dealt with it, tbh.

  15. Catting says:

    This guy is so consistently working, and on wonderful things. Love him & Meghan.

  16. Belle says:

    Why do most articles about the royal have to be a comparison between Kate vs Meghan or William vs Harry. Find it so unnecessary when reading something as warm as this particular story about Harry only to be ruin with unnecessary but but William, who has nothing to do with this. Nothing!

  17. xflare says:

    Wait… you’re using this to have a swipe at William??? please give it a rest.

  18. A says:

    I know a lot of people have pointed out that William might just not be a hugger. That could very well be true. But, I know a lot of people who aren’t huggers, who still exude a certain amount of warmth and a personable exterior. They are, simply put, nice people. William has shown through his behaviour that he is not such a person. That’s probably the other thing people are picking up on.

    I’m not much of a hugger myself, but if someone asked for it, I’d be willing to give them a hug. And I’d love a bear hug myself right about now. It’s been tough these last couple of months for me, and I’m just coming around to realizing that I think. Good on Harry for displaying an act of kindness like this. Far too often people seem to forget just how devastating the tabloids can be to someone’s personal life. Speaking for myself, I’d be horrified if anyone outed my sexuality to my parents against my will. Tabloids are a trade in cruelty. They peddle and sell cruelty and unkindness, in telling their readership that giving into their worst, most cruel instincts towards their fellow human being is okay. That is not a sustainable model for the world in any sense of the word.

  19. L4frimaire says:

    Harry made a nice gesture of support, plus Gareth and Harry could totally sit around and bitch about the shady tabloid press. That said, I’m fairly neutral on the hug thing and wouldn’t mind every once in a while if everyone toned it down. Besides, William hugging everyone now would just be weird and uncomfortable. Doesn’t seem like his thing outside of sporting events. I like what the French do. Handshakes with the air kisses. Not all touchy feely but a little bit more than a formal handshake.

  20. Penelope Cantrell says:

    Harry is the spitting image of Charles. Why do people still question that?

  21. Becks1 says:

    William could absolutely hug someone if he wanted to. Come on now. The Queen and Charles were raised in very different times. William could hug someone like Gareth Thomas and he would be praised for it.

    That said, some people just are not huggers and I think William is like that, and that’s fine. He’s not super physical in terms of touching, etc. That’s okay. Some people aren’t. But its not because he’s the future future king.

  22. Sof says:

    Well, there’s this video on the Cambridges’ instagram account
    Now you know, you have to ask him. But I agree with others, Harry seems more at ease with physical contact, they are different people.

  23. Mignionette says:

    Agreed Beck’s. Also when William is genuinely excited about something he does hug people, even his own wife sometimes….

  24. notasugarhere says:

    William hugs Zara and Peter, so he isn’t completely anti-hug.

  25. Sarah says:

    Casey, I think you may be blithely thinking “we” have come much further than we have. Nothing about this is “nothing”.

  26. Chelle says:

    I wonder if the hug was more about offering comfort to Gareth by outwardly expressing a level of camaraderie because he was laid so bare and publicly made vulnerable more so than it was about trying to break some sort of stigma or taboo about the humanity of people with AIDS/HIV. I say that because that’s why I would have hugged him. It would have been sort of a f*ck those MFs hug.

  27. Arpeggi says:

    Agreed, this is almost awardforgoodboy-worthy: praising someone for doing the bare minimum. And I say this as the daughter of an AIDS victim who had to wonder for years whether or not to disclose how my dad died to people because of the stigma associated to the disease. It’s almost 2020, hugging a HIV+ person is NBD. Geez! You can live a full life, have kids “the regular way” and so on while living with HIV nowadays if you have access to the right drugs, applauding someone for a hug doesn’t really help the cause

  28. Babs says:

    People I’m not sure where y’all from but in my part of the world, the stigma around HIV/AIDS is still something from out of this world. I’m sure if you asked Gareth, he’d tell you why it took a tabloid reporter blackmailing him to come out and disclose his status. For people living with the disease, the stigma is still massive and any gesture, outward or otherwise, that aims to normalize this disease is never taken for granted. Please don’t dismiss and minimize the hard work so many people, including HIV/AIDS patients, are doing to remove the stigma.

  29. Nahema says:

    The title of this article make me cringe. We should not be praising someone for hugging someone else, simply because they’re HIV positive. Harry is not amazing for doing this and this seems condescending towards the rugby player. I know we still have a long way to go but this only fuels the idea that this is exceptional behaviour.

  30. Sunday says:

    Literally 2 days ago there was a news story in which a Massage Envy in Florida refused service to a woman because she disclosed that she is HIV+. Two days ago. Dos. So, yes, this is still very much something which still needs to be discussed publicly, because clearly we have some people sleeping in the back of the classroom who desperately need to be taught. Well done, Harry.

  31. A says:

    Really though? Because there are a lot of people who still immediately panic and act incredibly serophobic at the mere mention of HIV/AIDS. People know better and still our first immediate response to it is to act disgusted and scared and frightened. A lot of organizations are still trying to do very difficult and necessary work to break down the stigma. Let’s not dismiss it out of hand like this, please, it’s still a huge problem today.

  32. Maria says:

    Not really, considering Gareth had to out himself to keep trolls from doing it. Of course Harry gave him a hug for support.

  33. Bohemian Angel says:

    Totally agree CHELLE. Gareth has been through the mill plus he is a very emotional man and is not afraid to cry, I saw him tearing up on the news today. I think it was a hug more for comfort than anything else. I’m not a hugger but I would’ve given him a hug in this instance.

  34. Erinn says:

    Yeah, it’s definitely not as destigmatized as one would think. I did find it sort of strange though ONLY because it’s a rugby player. These guys get pretty bloody, right? I don’t think hugging really broke any specific ground here if that WAS the intention (and it could have just been a friendly gesture only) when everyone playing with/against him are probably getting pretty up close and personal to the guy during games.

  35. Arpeggi says:

    Yup! People who stigmatize those living with HIV, those who are afraid of being in the same room as an HIV+ person and/or the press who disclosed Thomas’ status without his consent should be called out for their bad behaviours. But it doesn’t mean that we should start praising people just because they act as you’d expect any decent person to behave. Bloke who hugs mate who’s going through a terrible time is not praise-worthy, it’s the bare minimum