Prince Harry and Elton John urge redoubling of efforts against HIV/Aids
DURBAN, 21 July 2016 (the guardian) - Royal tells International Aids Conference in South Africa that ‘we now face a new risk – the risk of complacency’
Elton John and Prince Harry, pictured at the conference, have both set up charities to support people with HIV/Aids. Photograph: Kevin Sutherland/EPA
Prince Harry has taken to the international stage to raise awareness of HIV and Aids, joining the singer and prominent campaigner Sir Elton John at a conference in South Africa.
The 31-year-old royal, evoking the memory of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, told delegates in Durban: “When my mother held the hands of a man dying of Aids in an east London hospital, no one imagined a quarter of a century later HIV-positive people would live full, healthy, loving lives.”
But, he added, despite huge progress in the struggle against HIV and Aids, “we now face a new risk – the risk of complacency”.
Harry, whose charity Sentebale already focuses on supporting HIV-positive young people in Lesotho, is now aiming to spread the message to his generation that the fight against HIV and Aids has not yet been won.
Harry and Sir Elton later hosted a discussion on what must change to meet the needs of young people with HIV.
Addressing delegates, Harry, who has visited Lesotho many times since the age of 19, said he had seen that “children with HIV grapple with several medical, emotional and social challenges all at once” and that “just focusing on the physical effects of the disease wasn’t enough”.
“A child with unaddressed depression or traumatic stress from bereavement, poverty and discrimination is not a child who is likely to stick with their treatment programme,” he added.
When the first International Aids Conference was held, HIV was a death sentence, Harry said. “As people with HIV live longer, Aids is a topic that has drifted from the headlines, and with that drift of attention we risk a real drift of funding and of action to beat the virus,” he added.
“We cannot lose a sense of urgency, because despite all the progress we have made, HIV remains among the most pressing and urgent of global challenges – 1.1 million people died of Aids and 2.1 million were infected last year alone.”
It remained the number one cause of death among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, Harry said, and it was time for “a new generation of leaders to step forward” to continue the fight.
The prince, who underwent a public finger-prick HIV test in London last week, added: “It is time for us to step up to make sure no young person feels any shame in asking for an HIV test. It is time for us to step up to make sure that girls and boys with HIV aren’t kept from playing with their friends, classmates and neighbours.
“It is time for us to step up and acknowledge that stigma and discrimination still act as the greatest barrier to us defeating this disease once and for all.”
Sir Elton, who established a foundation to help in the global battle against Aids, said: “Today, HIV/Aids is a treatable disease and no longer the death sentence it was 10 years ago, but we cannot grow complacent in our fight to eradicate it.
“If our efforts wane, anti-viral drug resistance will resurface, transmission rates will again rise, and this disease, which knows no boundaries, will once again become a ruthless pandemic with disastrous and far-reaching consequences.”
Source: The Guardian