Perri Shakes-Drayton

Perri Shakes-Drayton inspired by Gareth Thomas to take on triathlon

Inspired by his story and captivated by his passion and mental toughness – former Olympian Perri Shakes-Drayton joined forces with former rugby international Gareth Thomas as they competed at last weekend’s Royal Windsor Triathlon.

Shakes-Drayton took on a ten-kilometre run as part of a triathlon relay team and teamed up with a host of HIV campaigners on the banks of the Thames to tackle the stigma that surrounds the virus.

Thomas announced to the world that he was HIV positive and chose to do so whilst competing in a 140-mile Ironman triathlon.

Now, over 4 years later, he led a team from his Tackle HIV campaign to undertake the Royal Windsor Triathlon to raise awareness and understanding about HIV. Gareth competed in the full Olympic distance triathlon, swimming 1,500m, cycling 40km and running 10k to demonstrate that living with HIV need not be a barrier to achieving anything, and to celebrate how far science and medicine have come in the last few decades.

“I am here because of Gareth,” Shakes-Drayton said. “We were on the same show, SAS: Who Dares Wins show, and we were sat next to each other on the plane, and he told me his story. 

“I was sat there thinking ‘wow, this man is amazing’. We gelled almost instantly. 

“When he messaged me to say that he wanted me to be a part of this triathlon, I was like, why not? 

“The fact that I could do my bit to run, to raise awareness and we have raised awareness for HIV and the stigma that comes with it. 

“It was such an easy decision to be a part of it. I love to run, and he is a great guy. 

“He is a testament, the embodiment of someone living with it and not letting any barriers get in their way.”

Since Thomas disclosed his positive status in 2019, the 100-cap rugby union international has campaigned tirelessly to improve the public’s knowledge of the illness.

Completing an IRONMAN in 2019, Thomas has also run the Royal Parks Half Marathon, the Cardiff Half Marathon and last year took on the 3 Peaks Challenge.

Set up by Thomas and ViiV Healthcare, with support from the Terrence Higgins Trust, Tackle HIV hope that through tackling the stigma surrounding HIV can make a difference to people living with and affected by the virus.

Already Tackle HIV have smashed through their fundraising goal of £2030, a target which was set in line with the UNAIDS goal of ending new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030.

“I think it was really important for us as a campaign to do this because we have got to a place now where we want to take the message around HIV and the realisation that it doesn’t limit what you are capable of physically or mentally,” Thomas said. 

“We want to take that to the public, rather than waiting for the public to come to us. 

“We have done many events and the experience here today that the other people who participated in the triathlon and the crowd.

“They are very supportive because they understand what it takes and the commitment it takes to compete in one of these.

“Running through there were people shouting support, people shouting support for the campaign. 

“You realise that if we hadn’t been here today, this message would never have been delivered to thousands and thousands of people that need to hear this message.”

Tackle HIV is led by Gareth Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and Terrence Higgins Trust who are the charity partner. It is supported by Sir Elton John and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and many across the sport and celebrity world. The campaign was established to tackle misunderstanding of HIV through public education activities and tackle the stigma around HIV through creating dialogue around HIV and normalising HIV testing.

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