As an international rugby legend, Gareth Thomas never forgot the badge on his shirt, sewn tight and right next to his heart, and he lived for putting smiles on the faces of fans. He once said they deserved to have something special to look forward to at the end of a hard, working week.
But when Gareth was officially named Postcode Hero at the People's Postcode Lottery Charity Gala on May 16th 2022, the prestigious award had less to do with his rugby exploits.
Instead, it recognised Gareth's incredible campaigning work to tackle HIV stigma and it was accompanied by a £250,000 cheque to ensure his chosen charity, Terrence Higgins Trust (opens in new tab), could continue its life-changing work.
Gareth, told a 650-strong gala audience at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre that he was overwhelmed by the award and so was the Trust.
Now, 12 months later, Terrence Higgins Trust has revealed exactly what impact their hero's cheque has had.
Richard Angell, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said, "The generous funding from Postcode Lottery players came at an exciting time as we work towards ending new cases of HIV by 2030, transforming public perceptions of the virus and improving the nation's sexual health.
"It has helped support five of our key projects: our helpline THT Direct, the Hardship Fund, counselling and psychotherapy services, volunteer services, and Positive Voices, our team of volunteers who deliver informative talks to groups about their experiences of living with HIV. The impact has been absolutely huge."
THT Direct is a vital lifeline for many vulnerable people - living with or worried about HIV, or who have a friend or loved one who is living with the virus. It provides emotional support and essential information, especially for those living in isolated parts of the UK. It helps 270 people every week and receives 14,000 inquiries each year.
The Counselling and Psychotherapy Services are the longest standing in the Trust's 40-year history. Thanks to the support Terrence Higgins Trust can continue to help those with poor sexual and mental health and as well as those at risk of contracting HIV.
There are currently 450 people in Volunteer Services based across UK offices and fulfilling a variety of roles from counselling to public speaking. Volunteers are the beating heart of Terrence Higgins Trust and funds from Postcode Innovation Trust (opens in new tab) have allowed them to recruit additional volunteers and develop the skills of existing ones.
The Positive Voices programme is a unique approach to tackling HIV-related stigma and increasing knowledge around the virus. Speakers' personal stories highlight the prejudice and discrimination faced by people living with HIV in an engaging and thought-provoking way, through their own lived experiences.
Funding is being utilised to aid recruitment of speakers from communities who are currently under-represented.
The Hardship Fund aims to alleviate financial poverty by providing small grants of £100 to £125 to people living with HIV over the age of 18 in the UK. The majority of requests are for help with the costs of basic living expenses such as food and clothing. The Hardship Fund is a vital lifeline - 84% of all applicants are either on benefits or have no income.
People's Postcode Lottery Managing Director, Clara Govier, said, "Our annual Postcode Hero award is more than just a recognition of outstanding achievement. It represents the tireless efforts of those who share a vision for a better future.
"Gareth made such a big impact as a rugby player. But the true impact he has had, has been on awareness. This has been the real game changer - ensuring that the Trust has been able to build on this and really change perceptions.
"We are so proud that our players have now raised more than £1.1 Billion to support such great efforts."