For World AIDS Day (Wednesday, December 1), Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, wrote an emotional letter continuing his mother’s fight against the disease. (Princess Diana was at the forefront of the effort to break the stigma experienced by people affected by HIV and AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s.)
His letter is addressed to Tedros Adhanom, the director general of the World Health Organization and Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS, the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. In the letter Prince Harry emphasizes the importance of World AIDS Day.
“We honor those whose lives have been cut short and reaffirm our commitment to a scientific community that has worked tirelessly against this disease,” Prince Harry wrote. “My mother would be deeply grateful for everything you stand for and have accomplished. We all share that gratitude, so thank you.”
Prince Harry went on to compare the AIDS crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It is striking to now see the world’s leading AIDS activists are also leading the call for COVID-19 vaccine equity,” he wrote. “Vaccinating the world is a test of our moral character and we are experiencing a spectacular failure when it comes to global vaccine equity. Similar to the AIDS crisis, we’ve yet again revealed over the past year, that the value of life depends on whether you were born and/or live in a rich nation, or a developing country.”
In 1987, Princess Diana opened the United Kingdom’s first HIV/AIDS unit at London’s Middlesex Hospital. On her first visit, she made a point of shaking hands with a terminally ill AIDS patient without wearing gloves. At the time, so much was unknown about the disease that people were afraid to touch those who had it. Prince Harry continues what she started.
“It’s time to draw from the lessons we learned throughout the HIV/AIDS pandemic, where millions died unnecessarily due to deep inequities in access to treatment,” Prince Harry wrote in his letter. “Are we really comfortable repeating the failures of the past? Everything I’ve learnt, from the youth of Sentebale, tells me not. They see how repeating these mistakes is destructive and self-defeating; it is a betrayal of the next generation.”
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