Wednesday marks a day devoted to raising awareness about AIDS and honoring both those who live with the disease and those who have died from it.
“On this World AIDS Day we recognise the 40 years that have shaped life for many,” he wrote in the message addressed to World Heath Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. “We honour those whose lives have been cut short and reaffirm our commitment to a scientific community that has worked tirelessly against this disease. My mother would be deeply grateful for everything you stand for and have accomplished. We all share that gratitude, so thank you.”
The Diana, Princess of Wales, has long been credited with playing an important early role in changing public sentiment around AIDS and HIV, the infection that can lead to the disease.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, during a time when many were ostracized and feared due to their diagnosis, she visited hospitals and orphanages, often hugging patients and holding their hands. She went on to become the patron of the U.K.’s National AIDS Trust and as well as an outspoken advocate who fought against the stigma of AIDS.
But Harry’s letter went on to draw a parallel between AIDS activists and another sort of activist — one that didn’t exist during his mother’s lifetime.
“It is striking to now see the world’s leading AIDS activists are also leading the call for COVID-19 vaccine equity,” the 37-year-old explained. “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.”
He warned that without global initiatives, without “breaking pharma monopolies” and without nations fulfilling their promises to deliver vaccine doses to all, “potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variants are likely to arise.”
That’s why equality in medicine is so vital.
“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,” he urged. “Are we really comfortable repeating the failures of the past?”
Looking at the young people who’ve benefited from Sentebale, the charity he founded in Southern Africa to help children living in poverty and devastation from AIDS/HIV, he finds the answer.
“Everything I’ve learnt, from the youth of Sentebale, tells me not,” he wrote. “They see how repeating these mistakes is destructive and self- defeating, it is a betrayal of the next generation.”
In closing, he added, “Let’s spend today celebrating and building on the work of champions who turned what was once a death sentence into a manageable condition. Let’s spend tomorrow continuing our efforts to save lives and make a difference.”