Britain’s Royal Family has created a new milestone in HIV advocacy as Prince Harry took an HIV test this week to show how relatively painless, quick and easy is to get one.
Queen Elizabeth’s second grandson paid a visit to the Guys and St. Thomas’ Hospital in London for the test. The moment, streamed live on The Royal Family Facebook page, was meant to demonstrate to the public that getting an HIV test is a no-brainer, and barring complications, how quickly one can get the results.
Prince Harry, who tested negative and did not need any more testing, said that no matter who you are, it shouldn’t matter when getting the test, and there should be no finger-pointing, discrimination or stigma anymore. He said,
To normalize the situation surely it’s better if everyone gets tested. Let’s all get tested.
Dr. Robert Palmer, who guided the royal through the testing process, also took some time to explain how important consent is in an HIV test and agrees that it should be “normalized.”
This move comes as Prince Harry prepares to attend and speak at the 21st International AIDS Conference to be held in Durban, South Africa.
As members of the media have pointed out, Prince Harry’s bold statement stems from his interest in continuing the work that his mother, the late Princess Diana, began in the 1980s. The former Princess of Wales had immersed herself in promoting understanding of HIV and advocating for better treatment and palliative care for victims of the HIV/AIDS at a time when there was a strong stigma surrounding these conditions.
Experts estimate that nearly 37 million people live with HIV globally, but as many as 17.1 million may not even know they have the virus, raising the potential for infecting others while endangering their own health.
One reason for this is the general lack of knowledge and understanding regarding HIV testing. In addition, while modern society has come a long way from the biases and fears surrounding the virus since Princess Diana’s time, traces of stigma still remain, which can hinder testing and ultimately, treatment.
Sexually active people who have multiple partners or have had many partners in a short span of time, are recommended to get tested frequently. As Prince Harry has actively validated, the first step towards curing something is knowing and acknowledging its presence.