Nearly 30 years after Princess Diana was photographed shaking the hand of a man who had been diagnosed with AIDS, Prince Harry has continued Diana’s work tirelessly, speaking at this week’s 21st International AIDS Conference, held in South Africa.
“When my mother held the hand of a man dying of AIDS in 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 said.
But while this positive action is an achievement to be celebrated, Harry warned that complacency could mean the unravelling of advancements, especially in light of the recent growth in HIV diagnosis, especially in the younger generations.
“We now face a new risk, a risk of complacency”, he said.
He spoke about the importance of continuing to support research, treatment and funding for AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention programs and expressed his fears for the future of adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is the leading cause of death for those aged 10-19.
This harrowing statistic is one that he is currently trying to eradicate, through work with his charity Sentebale. Working with this charity has given him an insight into the day-to-day lives of children and adolescents who have been affected by the disease – either themselves, or through the experience of their parents.
“Children living with HIV grapple with severe medical, emotional and social challenges all at once,” Harry said, adding that “it is all too common for a 12-year-old boy or girl to be forced out to work so they can provide for their brothers and sisters having lost one or two parents to AIDS.”
UNAIDS recently set a global goal of ending the epidemic by 2030, a goal that many believe can’t be achieved, but Harry begs to differ. He appealed to the younger generations to see this goal through, stating: “In helping young people fight HIV, we will not just be ending this epidemic… We’ll be changing the direction of history for an entire generation.”