William and I are incredibly proud of what our mother achieved. And we thank you for awarding her the Legacy Award.The Duke of Sussex
In April 1987, my mother was only 25 years old.
She was still finding her way in public life, but already she felt a responsibility, to shine her spotlight on the people and issues that were often ignored. She knew that AIDS was one of the things that many wanted to ignore and seemed like a hopeless challenge. She knew that the misunderstanding of this relatively new disease was creating a dangerous situation when mixed with homophobia.
People were ostracized from their communities – and sometimes from their families – simply for being ill. Staff who treated the ill, were themselves often turned away from local barbers and restaurants, even though it was proven that HIV could not be passed on from casual contact.
And we faced the very real risk that thousands would die in the UK – including many young gay men of her generation – without making any progress towards treatment of the disease.
So 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. She was using her position as Princess of Wales – the most famous woman in the world – to challenge everyone to educate themselves; to find their compassion; and to reach out to those who need help instead of pushing them away.
In the years that followed that famous handshake, her work continued, both in public and private. When she visited Mildmay Hospital and the London Lighthouse hospice, she wanted the world to learn the stories of those who were dying. She wanted people to demand action towards treatments that would save lives. And she wanted to get to know those who were dying not as statistics or patients, but as people.
In the year before my mother's death, the first truly effective anti-retroviral treatments were developed for HIV and AIDS. She did not live to see this treatment become widely available and save countless lives in the UK and around the world.
I often wonder about what she would be doing to continue the fight against HIV and AIDS if she were still with us today.
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.
She would be demanding that same access to treatment and testing for young people in Africa and across the world. And she would of course be standing alongside those who are living openly, as healthy, happy and HIV-positive.
William and I are incredibly proud of what our mother achieved. And we thank you for awarding her the Legacy Award.