Prince Harry continued his work raising awareness around the HIV/AIDS crisis by speaking at the specialist conference in Durban today.
In the past few months, the young royal has been focusing his efforts towards helping charities that research HIV and combatting the stigma surrounding the virus. Earlier this month he literally rolled up his sleeves and took an HIV test live on Facebook.

In a recent visit to the Mildmay hospital, an East London charitable HIV hospital that Princess Diana visited frequently, Harry spoke to the Times about his mother’s work battling the disease and stigma.

Britain's Prince Harry poses for a photograph with a group of young ambassadors at the 2016 International World AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, Thursday July 21, 2016. (AP Photo)

Britain’s Prince Harry poses for a photograph with a group of young ambassadors at the 2016 International World AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, Thursday July 21, 2016. (AP Photo)

“She smashed the stigma around HIV on more than one occasion. It had a huge impact, and a huge impact on my life as well,” he told the paper.

Joining Prince Harry at the conference in Durban today was the singer and campaigner Sir Elton John. The pair signed the UN AIDS ProTEST wall, with Harry writing: ““Get tested! Why wouldn’t you?” And Sir Elton adding: “Together we can make a change.”

Speaking at the conference, Harry explained his insight into the treatment of the illness over the past 10 years, after working closely with the charity Senteable – an East London organisation he co-founded to help South African children battle HIV.

“These advances in halting transmission, expanding access to treatment, and improving provision of testing are the successes of many of the people and organisations gathered here at this conference,” he explained. Later adding: “Stigma kept HIV-positive people from talking openly about their condition and kept vulnerable people from having the courage to step into a clinic and ask for a test.

“But thanks to the work of leaders in the fight against HIV – people like Nelson Mandela, Sir Elton John, the brave activists of TAG and ACT UP, people like Dr Peter Piot, and like my mother, Princess Diana – we have made huge progress.”

The Prince went on to celebrate his mother’s ground breaking work in battling the stigma surrounding HIV when the epidemic in it’s worst period: “When my mother held the hand of a man dying of AIDS in an East London hospital, no one would have imagined that just over a quarter of a century later treatment would exist that could see HIV-positive people live full, healthy, loving lives.”

He went on to caution, that despite the progress made, the battle has not been won: “But we now face a new risk – the risk of complacency. As people with HIV live longer, AIDS is a topic that has drifted from the headlines. And with that drift of attention, we risk a real drift of funding and of action to beat the virus.

“We cannot lose a sense of urgency, because despite all the progress we have made, HIV remains among the most pressing and urgent of global challenges – 1.1m people died of AIDS and 2.1m were infected last year alone.

“HIV remains the number one cause of death amongst adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. In my own country, infection rates are still rising amongst important groups despite the availability of instant testing and universal access to treatment.”

Words Hugh Sallows

Harry was also joined by AIDS activist Elton John to address the delegates. The duo hosted a session focused on how the disease affects young people.

 

Last week, the singer took to Instagram to praise Harry for taking an HIV test live on video,

“Prince Harry gave that stigma a knock on the head by showing the world how easy and simple it is to take an HIV test,” he wrote. “Bravo Prince Harry! Your mother would be so proud of you.”

In 1991, Princess Diana moved a mountain by addressing the stigma surrounding people living with HIV/AIDS. She showed the world we could safely wrap our arms around AIDS patients, by shaking hands with a patient without gloves. We've made huge strides since then in the treatment of the disease. People now live long, happy lives with HIV, when the virus is effectively managed with anti-retrovirals. Despite this amazing progress, most people today are still frightened and stigmatised at the notion of taking an HIV test. Today in London, Prince Harry gave that stigma a knock on the head by showing the world how easy and simple it is to take an HIV test. Bravo Prince Harry! Your mother would be so proud of you. @ejaf #LoveBravery

A video posted by Elton John (@eltonjohn) on

 

Harry’s work countering HIV and AIDS is a major part of his public work. At the conference, he also shared the stage with his good friend Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, with whom he set up the kids’ charity Sentebale to help those orphaned by AIDS in the mountainous kingdom.

“At the time of the first International AIDS conference, HIV was a death sentence,” Harry told the delegates. “Stigma kept HIV positive people from talking openly about their condition and kept vulnerable people from having the courage to step into a clinic and ask for a test.”

Earlier in the day, Harry and Elton John added their names to a wall of signatures, run by the UNAIDS group called the #ProTESTHIV wall. Signing in red ink, Harry wrote in block letters, “GET TESTED! WHY WOULDN’T YOU?”

 

This article was originally published on Gay Times and People.

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