Saturday, 26 Sep 2020

Princess Diana’s commitment went ‘beyond seeking media opportunities’

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Princess Diana’s charitable work was never been a means for her to merely seek media attention. Rather, according to the chief executive of one of Diana’s most beloved patronages, the late Princess constantly demonstrated a sincere passion for issues she cared about with her commitment and understanding. 

Deborah Gold, chief executive at National AIDS Trust (NAT), told “The reality of HIV today is worlds away from HIV in the 1990s.

“Science and medication has transformed the way people live with HIV but much of the stigma of that time still exists.

“One of Princess Diana’s most important legacies was the way she helped to break down this stigma and misinformation around HIV.

“When Diana opened the first dedicated HIV and AIDS ward at London Middlesex hospital in April 1987 she held the hand of a man who lived with HIV, without gloves, in front of the world’s press. 

“But her passion for supporting people living with HIV went way beyond seeking media opportunities, and she showed an ongoing commitment to understanding HIV and making a real difference.”

Princess Diana was instrumental in changing the perception people had of people affected by HIV and Aids.

At the height of the Aids epidemic in 1987, Princess Diana officially launched the UK’s first HIV/AIDs unit at London Middlesex Hospital – a ward entirely dedicated to the care of patients infected with the virus. 

During her walkabout at the hospital, Diana met doctors, nurses and patients.

There, she was photographed shaking hands with one of the HIV positive patients.

This simple move had a huge effect on public opinion at a time when many were wrongly believing HIV and Aids could be spread through touch.

Helping dispel this false myth was just one of the many ways Diana supported HIV and Aids patients and fought for ending the stigma surrounding them.

In 1993, she delivered a powerful speech focused on the impact this virus has on mother and children, dispelling another myth – that Aids and HIV were solely a problem of the gay community.

Speaking about Princess Diana’s crusade, Ms Gold continued: “Princess Diana’s passion about HIV was an unprecedented meeting between the British establishment and a controversial cause surrounded by huge public misunderstanding and distrust.

“She could have limited her support to ‘safe’ causes, and if she had, it is hard to imagine when the public would have learned that it was OK to touch somebody living with HIV.

“There can be no doubt that Diana was responsible for one of the biggest shifts in public awareness of HIV and AIDS that has ever taken place. 

“In recent years, it’s clear that the public attention and challenge that Princess Diana helped create has waned.

“Stigma and discrimination still prevail and we continue to push the Government on its commitment of ending new HIV transmissions by 2030.”

Princess Diana’s battle against the stigma surrounding Aids and HIV has been picked up by her two sons Harry and William.

In 2012 the brothers pledged their support for the Terrence Higgins Trust, an organisation named after one of the first British people to die of Aids. 

In 2016, Prince Harry underwent testing for HIV live on Facebook, urging people to follow his example to control and eliminate the virus.

A week later, the Duke of Sussex took the centre stage during an Aids conference in South Africa, warning against complacency in fighting the disease.

He said: “It is time for a new generation of leaders to step forward.

“It is time for us to step up to make sure no young person feels any shame in asking for an HIV test.”      

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