Prince Harry follows in Diana’s footsteps visiting London HIV hospital
Prince Harry has met with HIV-positive patients while visiting a London hospital supported by his mother.
The fifth-in-line to the throne donned a red AIDS ribbon on Monday while he paid a visit to Mildmay – a charitable HIV hospital located in East London.
The hospital has provided care and services to people living with HIV since 1988, when it opened as Europe’s first hospice caring for people with dying of AIDS related illness.
Today, the hospital is the only centre in Europe dedicated to rehabilitation for people with a complex HIV condition called HAND – HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder, which can occur when HIV enters the brain.
Princess Diana made many visits both officially and unofficially – and famously shook hands with a patient at the height of fear around the condition, helping to break down some of the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.
Symptoms are similar to severe dementia – including memory loss, confusion, loss of a sense of self, difficulty walking, speaking and coping with to day to day tasks.
Following in his mother’s footsteps, Prince Harry met with patients, staff, and supporters at the hospital.
The royal, who was marking the opening of the hospital’s new purpose-built facilities, was greeted by a chorus of well-wishers and children from local primary schools.
Inside the hospital he met with some of the same staff who had previously met his mother during her HIV advocacy.
He was also presented with a photograph of Diana kissing a patient on the cheek, at a time where stigma was rife. Prince Harry made a similar gesture, holding hands with some of the most seriously ill patients while meeting them away from cameras.
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The Princess made a total of 17 visits to the hospital prior to her death in 1997 – with 14 in secret.
Kerry Reeves-Kneip, director of fundraising, said: “She gave a lot of love and comfort to the people here. She was absolutely incredible.”
“She used to sneak in and out unknown. Nowadays, Twitter, no chance.”
Recalling a visit from the Princess, 60-year-old office manager Sharon Smith said: “She used to get involved with the children we treated to the extent that she tried to learn to juggle.
“I never thought I would meet her son but it’s been very nice and I just hope he might continue the work that she started.”
The hospital’s director, Dr Ross White said: “It was a particularly special visit for us not only because of the Prince’s own HIV work through his charity Sentebale, but also because his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales showed such great support for Mildmay.
“We hope that this special visit will help to promote HIV awareness, help to fight stigma and increase knowledge of Mildmay’s work in the UK and east Africa.”