The Duke of Sussex has urged people to ‘know your status’ and get tested for HIV, saying he hopes to continue his mother’s work to help eradicate stigma and misunderstanding surrounding the virus.
He told former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas, who is living with HIV, that there had been a huge change with people talking openly about the disease in the 35 years after his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, opened the first AIDS unit at Middlesex Hospital. in London. But more needs to be done to make progress towards the UK’s goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030, he added.
In a video chat posted online tTo mark National HIV Testing Week, Harry said he had been influenced by the suffering caused by the virus during visits to Lesotho and Botswana. “Add to the fact that my mother’s work was unfinished, I feel compelled to try to continue as much as possible. I can never succeed her, especially in this particular space, what she has done, what she was defending and how vocal she was on this issue,” he said.
When Harry took an HIV test in 2016, the live stream helped drive a 500% increase in people requesting a test on the Terrence Higgins Trust website.
He said: “Each of us has the duty, or at least the ability, to get tested ourselves to make it easier for everyone else.” Noting that there had been a drop in HIV testing during Covid, he added that with people regularly testing for coronavirus it should be ‘ingrained in us that this is what we need to do, know our status so that we can keep other people safe”.
Thomas, who revealed his HIV status in 2019, has since launched Fight HIV alongside ViiV Healthcare in 2020 to educate people about the virus. He said that although people may be discouraged from taking a test for fear of a positive result, “it wouldn’t be scary if you understood what it is like to live with HIV in 2022”.
His own diagnosis had given him “an appreciation for life.” “I take a moment at 6am…I take my HIV medicine which is a pill, and it feels like my day starts then. I’m very active, I go to the gym, I work as hard as I can and I think with that appreciation for life comes that feeling of not being selfish,” he said.
A condition he “thought to be a life-ending condition, it actually turned into a life-affirming condition,” he said.
Free do-at-home HIV test kits can be ordered from www.startswithme.org.uk