The Arts Team at Cardiff & Vale Health Charity has commissioned a special artwork of Welsh rugby legend, Gareth Thomas to celebrate Pride 2020

Gareth nicknamed “Alfie”, is a Welsh former professional rugby player, who represented Wales in both rugby union and rugby league. With 100 test match appearances he was the most capped Welsh rugby union player until September 2011. He retired from rugby in October 2011.

Gareth came out in December 2009. The following year he was voted the most influential gay person in the UK in The Independent on Sunday Pink List and received Stonewalls Hero of the Year award. His public confirmation of his sexuality made him the first openly gay professional rugby union player. His autobiography Proud, written with Michael Calvin, won Sports Book of the Year in 2015.

Gareth is a tireless supporter and advocate for members of LGBTQ+ communities, and constantly strives to raise awareness, break down barriers and fight the prejudice often faced by the members of these communities. This was never more apparent than when Gareth was the victim of a homophobic attack in 2018, but still requested that the Police deal with his attackers via restorative justice, seeking to educate rather than punish.

In September 2019, Gareth announced that he was HIV positive with undetectable status meaning that he is not infectious. The following day, he competed in the Ironman Wales event in Tenby, finishing 413th out of 2,039, having vowed to “break the stigma” around the illness. For National HIV Testing Week, Gareth also filmed a documentary with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and the Terrence Higgins Trust, which aired a few days later on 18 September. A BBC documentary, Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me, also aired in September 2019.

Gareth was honoured in the St David’s Awards 2020, he was presented an award for his work in raising awareness of the stigma around HIV. The First Minister for Wales said he picked Thomas for a special prize as he is a “role model for people of all ages, but particularly young people”. “He has been open and honest about his sexuality and his HIV status and his story has been inspiring,” he said. “His approach will help break down barriers and stereotypes, increase understanding and will help others in a similar situation to never be ashamed of who they are.”

Following his diagnosis, Gareth receives regular treatment and counselling from the Department of Sexual Health at Cardiff Royal Infirmary and credits the team at the clinic for their care and compassion, helping him through such a difficult period in his life, enabling him to come to terms with his diagnosis and encouraging him to look forward to the future with pride.

Rachel Drayton, Clinical Director for the Department of Sexual Health said: “It’s great to see Gareth doing so well.  He’s such as great role model to many, using his professional status as a platform to champion issues close to him, such as LGBTQ+ equality, mental health and raising awareness about HIV.  We hope displaying this artwork inspires others to go forward with strength and hope for the future.”

This artwork was created by Nathan Wyburn, an artist who specialises mostly in creating iconic celebrity portraits and ‘Pop Culture’ imagery with non-traditional mediums such as food (e.g. marmite, sauces, sugar, chocolate, beans and pizza). He is a proud patron of Cardiff & Vale Health Charity. Nathan is a great supporter of the NHS and recently, Cardiff & Vale Health Charity worked closely with Nathan to share the iconic ‘NHS Thank You” which has been printed onto large scale banners and posters across Cardiff and Vale University Health Board sites and adopted by the wider NHS Wales and beyond.

Nathan is a proud gay man with an absolute passion for supporting and championing LBGTQ+ rights, promoting equality, mental health and breaking down barriers for these communities both through his work and his personal life.

He was absolutely delighted to be commissioned to create this piece in tribute to his friend Gareth Thomas. Nathan chose to use red paint and fingerprint to create this piece to use of red paint to symbolise blood and finger prints as identity to help break down the stigma.

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