People with HIV/AIDS still face stigma today, but in the 1980s when the AIDS crises was in full swing, they also faced legitimate fear from those who believed they were contagious. Then, in 1987, when many people still believed that a person could contract the disease simply by touching someone who had it, Princess Diana shook the hand of a man living with HIV.
"When that April she shook the hand of a 32-year-old man with HIV in front of the cameras, she knew exactly what she was doing," Prince Harry said of his mom at The Virgin Holidays Attitude Awards in London Thursday. He was there to accept the Legacy Award on behalf of Princess Diana for her work in HIV/AIDS activism.
“Without the expected mask, gown or gloves, she touched and embraced the sick and the dying, when the common misconception was sharing cutlery or a public bathroom would see you infected. It changed understanding, and it changed our world," Darren Styles, publisher of Attitude magazine, said while presenting the award.
The same month when she shook that patient's hand, Princess Diana opened the UK’s first HIV/AIDS hospital unit, and her activism continued from there. Now, Prince Harry is taking up his mom's mantel and used his speech at the awards to encourage everyone to continue getting tested.
"I often wonder about what she would be doing to continue the fight against HIV and AIDS if she was still with us, today," he said. "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."
His work to bring awareness of HIV/AIDS across the world is in line with what Prince Harry believes Princess Diana would be doing were she still alive. He said at the Attitude Awards that his mother would be "demanding that same access to treatment and testing for young people in Africa and across the world."