While she is well known for her charitable endeavours, Princess Diana’s most enduring legacy is perhaps her efforts to dismantle the stigma surrounding AIDS and HIV in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Last night, Attitude magazine recognised the late Princess’s work with a Legacy Award, which was accepted on her behalf by her younger son, Prince Harry.
In an emotive speech, the Prince paid tribute to his mother’s charity work in this field, recalling the moment when Diana shook hands with an AIDs patient at the UK’s first HIV / AIDS unit, found in London Middlesex Hospital. Famously, the princess did so without wearing gloves, thus challenging the misconception that the HIV virus could be passed on by touch.
‘In April 1987, my mother was only 25 years old,’ the Prince said in his acceptance speech. ‘She was still finding her way in public life, but already she 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.’
‘So, when, that April, she took the hand of a 32-year-old man with HIV, in front of the cameras, she knew exactly what she was doing. She was using her position as 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,’ he continued.
The Prince went on to share his belief that ‘we must all embrace regular testing’ for the virus, and stated that if his mother were still alive today, she would advocate the same.
‘I believe that she would be telling everyone across society – not just those most at risk - that with effective treatment being free and available in the UK, that we must all embrace regular testing – both for our own sake and for those that we love,’ he said.
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