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Prince Harry says Princess Diana 'smashed the wall down' around HIV stigma

The Duke of Sussex spoke with Gareth Thomas

The Duke of Sussex says he feels "obligated" to continue his late mother Princess Diana's work on combatting the stigma around HIV, as she "smashed the wall down". 

In a conversation with Gareth Thomas to mark the UK's National HIV Testing Week, Prince Harry, 37, spoke about what motivates him to raise awareness.

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"I think once you get to meet people and you see the suffering around the world, I certainly can't turn my back on that. Then add in the fact that my mum's work was unfinished, I feel obligated to try and continue that as much as possible," he said. "I could never fill her shoes especially in this particular space but because of what she did and what she stood for and how vocal she was about this issue.

"But it's the converging of all these different pieces, the work that she was doing, trying to continue that, trying to finish the job but once you've met so many people, heard people's stories, seen the suffering, especially in Lesotho and Botswana where I've seen it most, there is a way out of it. And if there's a way out of it and we know there's a solution, I'm like a typical guy, I just want to fix things."

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Princess Diana at the opening of the HIV/AIDS unit in 1987

In April 1987, Princess Diana opened the UK's first specialist HIV/AIDS unit at London's Middlesex Hospital. "HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it," she said. "What's more, you can share their homes, their workplaces, and their playgrounds and toys."

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Harry paid tribute to his late mother's work 

Speaking from his Montecito home, Harry added that his mother helped to "smash the wall down" and that she created "empathy and understanding, but also curiosity" at that time.

"I think that was really powerful to be able to create that curiosity of 'Hang on, we know nothing about this virus. Can we at least learn some more rather than being so critical and so judgemental right from the beginning?'" he told Gareth.

The Duke and Gareth have both been involved in National Testing HIV Week and the drive to get more people tested regularly. When Harry took an HIV test in 2016, the live broadcast contributed to a 500 per cent increase in the number of people requesting a test on the Terrence Higgins Trust website

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Tackle HIV is a public awareness initiative led by Gareth Thomas

Gareth launched Tackle HIV alongside ViiV Healthcare in 2020 to educate people about HIV and correct the myths that exist around it to break the stigma that surrounds the virus. "We need to eradicate the stigma and the misunderstanding around it," Gareth said. "It wouldn't be scary if you understood what living with HIV in 2022 is."

Prince Harry, who has long supported the work of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Every single one of us has a duty, or at least an opportunity, to get tested ourselves to make it easier for everybody else to get tested."

This week, in the UK you can order a free HIV test kit to do at home via www.startswithme.org.uk or test for HIV at your local sexual health clinic or at community clinics like those held by Terrence Higgins Trust and other voluntary organisations. 

Tackle HIV, a campaign led by Gareth Thomas in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and the Terrence Higgins Trust, aims to tackle the stigma and misunderstanding around HIV. Visit www.tacklehiv.org and follow @tacklehiv

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