TV star Nathaniel Hall says scaling Scafell Pike as part of Tackle HIV’s Three Peaks challenge can demonstrate to others that living with the virus is no barrier to leading a ‘happy, healthy and fighting fit’ life.
Hall joined forces with Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas and fellow Tackle HIV team members – including journalist Ellie Harrison – to climb England’s highest mountain on Tuesday.
Hall, who played Donald Bassett in the Channel 4 hit show It’s a Sin, was diagnosed as being HIV positive at the age of just 16.
Thomas, the face of the trailblazing Tackle HIV campaign, united with well-known celebrity supporters, partners from the Terrence Higgins Trust and ViiV Healthcare to walk the highest mountains in Wales, England, and Scotland to demonstrate that living with HIV need not be a barrier, and to celebrate how far science and medicine have come in the last few decades.
Hall, 36, has come to terms with his positive diagnosis but like Thomas, now wants to educate others to eliminate the stigma that surrounds it.
He said: “I am here really for the same reason that Gareth is here – the metaphor of climbing a mountain and what that means for people with HIV.
“I have lived with HIV for 20 years, which is more of my adult life with HIV than without.
“HIV has radically changed since 2003 in terms of the science and medicine, but the one thing that has not changed is the stigma and the shame and psychological impact that people feel.
“So climbing this mountain is showing others that people like me, people with HIV, we have climbed this mountain and we continue to do it every single day.
“We are incredibly resilient as a community of people, despite some of the awful stuff that the world might throw at us, so it is a personal challenge in that sense for me.
“But also, it is to show the rest of the world about the advances in HIV science – they do not know that people with HIV can live happy, healthy, long lives.
“The outward-facing part of it is to show people that we are happy, healthy and fighting fit and we can do all these things.”
Hall climbed the Lake District mountain following Thomas’ successful climbing of Mount Snowdon, where he was accompanied by fellow Welsh rugby great Shane Williams.
He is hoping this challenge will be the first of many as he looks to help the Government reach their goal of zero transmissions by 2030.
“It is a big challenge, I am trying to think of the last time I climbed a mountain!” he added.
“I texted my mum last night and she said to remember your Duke of Edinburgh training.
“I love getting out in nature anyway and I do not really get the chance to do it that often, so to come to the beautiful Lake District with this amazing team and share this experience together is really cool and I am really excited about it.”
Helping Thomas climb new heights are partners from Terrence Higgins Trust and ViiV Healthcare who are challenging the stigma surrounding HIV through public education to normalise HIV testing.
Richard Angell, CEO of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We are scaling mountains, quite literally, in our efforts to end stigma.
“The Three Peaks is important because we have big mountains to climb to end new cases of HIV in England, Wales, and Scotland.
“Each has a slightly different epidemic so there’s different challenges and different stigma.
“This is about people living with HIV reaching their potential and this walk shows what can be achieved.”
Stephen Rea from ViiV Healthcare added: “The Tackle HIV campaign demonstrates the power of moving as a team.
“Our guiding principle is to leave no person with HIV behind. Gareth shows what it takes to be a supreme human being in all forms and most impressively commits to facing profound issues such as stigma and discrimination in a positive way and it’s a privilege to be able to support it.”
Tackle HIV is a campaign led by Gareth Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and Terrence Higgins Trust and aims to tackle the stigma and misunderstanding around HIV. For more information visit www.tacklehiv.org and follow @tacklehiv