Prince Harry and Meghan Markle mark World AIDS Day: ‘We owe it to this generation to eradicate AIDS’
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attended a World AIDS Day event today in their first joint royal engagement.
The newly-engaged royal couple travelled to Nottingham to attend the #SeeRed event, which was organised by HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust.
The pair were photographed sporting red World AIDS Day ribbons as they spoke to the crowd.
Prince Harry said: “We mustn’t be complacent. We’ve got everything here: all the equipment, all the testing ability.
“We owe it to this generation to be able to eradicate this once and for all.”
The Prince, a passionate advocate on HIV/AIDS issues, spoke to people living with HIV as well as sexual health campaigners.
Andrew Bates, a gay man living with HIV who met the Prince at the launch of HIV testing week last month, was able to speak to the Prince about coming out.
He said: “He seems to genuinely care about the work that he does and the people that he speaks to, so it was my pleasure to open up about areas such as coming out as gay, the struggle of coming to terms with having HIV and the idea of living the rest of your life with a chronic illness.
“Not only was this conversation therapeutic for myself, but being able to discuss such matters with an individual in such high places was exactly what I aimed to achieve, and more, when I spoke out about my HIV diagnosis and decided to campaign for the Terrence Higgins Trust.”
The British royal made global headlines this week when he announced his engagement to Ms Markle, an actress best known for appearing in US TV show Suits.
However, she will be leaving the Hollywood life behind her ahead of their May wedding, and taking up royal engagements alongside her fiance.
Ahead of today’s engagement, the palace said: “Prince Harry and Ms Markle will undertake their first official engagements together in Nottingham this Friday.
“Prince Harry is looking forward to introducing Ms Markle to a community that has become very special to him.
“They will visit a Terrence Higgins Trust #WorldAIDSDay charity fair where they will meet representatives of organisations supporting people living with HIV/AIDS.”
Ian Green, CEO, Terrence Higgins Trust, told PinkNews: ‘We’re delighted to welcome Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Nottingham Contemporary, for a #SeeRed event to mark World AIDS Day.”
He added: “We’re really looking forward to introducing both him and Meghan to some wonderful individuals and groups who help to combat HIV stigma in the UK.”
The Prince has recently become a passionate activist on HIV/AIDS, speaking out repeatedly on the issue.
Last month he attended the opening of Terrence Higgins Trust’s HIV self test pop-up shop in Hackney, to launch National HIV Testing Week.
His Royal Highness met with Andrew Bates, a young man who was diagnosed with HIV in 2015, who shared his story and talked about the importance of testing.
Prince Harry also met Yvette Twagiramariya, reporter and one of the faces of the It Starts With Me campaign, who took a live HIV test to show Prince Harry how the self tests work.
Before departing the shop, the Prince met and talked with some local Hackney residents, and gave each of them one of the self test kits to take home.
Ian Green, CEO, Terrence Higgins Trust added: “It was a pleasure hosting HRH at our self-test HIV pop-up shop in Hackney during National HIV Testing Week, and we’re really looking forward to introducing both him and Meghan to some wonderful individuals and groups who help to combat HIV stigma in the UK.
‘World AIDS Day is an important day to remember all those lost to HIV since the start of the epidemic.
“Thankfully, incredible medical advances been made in the fight against HIV since our namesake Terry Higgins lost his life 35 years ago. “Today the UK is closer than ever to beating HIV, with the largest drop in new diagnoses reported this year, but we won’t get there until we stamp out HIV stigma for good.”
He collected an award on behalf of his late mother, Princess Diana, who campaigned extensively on HIV/AIDS.
The Prince has followed in his mother’s footsteps by campaigning on HIV/AIDS issues, while he has also praised the “amazing” work of a transgender children’s charity.
In a moving speech about his mother’s legacy, Prince Harry said: “In April 1987, my mother was only 25 years old.
“She was still finding her way in public life, but she already felt a responsibility to shine her spotlight on the people and issues that were often ignored.
“She knew that AIDS was one of the things that many wanted to ignore and seemed like a hopeless challenge.
“She knew that the misunderstanding of this relatively new disease was creating a dangerous situation when mixed with homophobia.”
“She knew exactly what she was doing.
“She was using her position of princess of Wales – the most famous woman in the world – to challenge everyone to educate themselves; to find their compassion; and to reach out to those who need help instead of pushing them away.”
Many in the gay community held a special affinity with the Princess, in part due to her work during the AIDS crisis.
During the AIDS crisis Princess Diana made many visits both officially and unofficially – and famously shook hands with a patient at the height of HIV stigma.
The charity named in her honour, The Diana Award, also works to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
The Prince has adopted HIV as one of his key campaigning issues, visiting a number of HIV clinics, attending the International AIDS Conference in South Africa, and speaking about his late mother’s work on the issue.
Last year the Prince made headlines by taking a HIV test himself in a Facebook Live video, in an appeal for more people to get tested.
The Prince said of his mother: “She started very punchy [on AIDS].
“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.”
Prince Harry added: “I don’t consciously channel myself down certain avenues specifically because I think my mum would be proud. But she sure as hell would be proud of me, hopefully, that I’m doing it.”
He explained: “If you’re not going to get tested for yourself and you’re not going to go and get tested for your loved ones that you could possibly infect, then… I don’t know if it’s a selfish thing to say or not, but if you respect what my mother stood for, go and get tested for her.
“It’s 20 years next year since she died, and 30 years ago she was in this hospital [HIV clinic Mildmay] and she did something that no-one else had ever done before.
“If she were still here today, she would probably get tested every month, just to prove a point.”
The Prince added that it was important for him as a straight man to take on the issue, to bust early misconceptions about HIV/AIDS being an exclusively ‘gay’ disease.
He said: “The issue itself needs a straight guy, mid-30s, to come in and try and normalise it. Once again, I’m fortunate enough to be in this position in order to make a difference.
The royal continued: “There’s so much stigma simply around a name or an acronym. It’s 2016 for god’s sake, we need to start rethinking this.
“Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. When you spell it out, you suddenly go, ‘it’s not actually that terrifying at all’.
“If you speak to someone who’s suffering from [AIDS], of course it’s terrifying because it can kill you, but the point I’m trying to make is, if you can’t even say the word without cringing or worrying or freaking out about it, how the hell are we going to help everybody and solve this problem before it gets too big?
“I think most people would admit that they’ve had sex without a condom, and there is always a moment, the next day probably, when you think to yourself, ‘I need to go and get a checkup’.”
“Let’s start in the UK, lead by example, and then help everybody else.”
The Prince recently praised the work of Mermaids, a charity which works to support transgender children.
The Royal Family maintained a historic silence on LGBT rights, but Prince Harry and his brother Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, have busted the stigma over the past few years.