A speech by Prince Harry at the International AIDS Conference in Durban
Published 21 July 2016
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
I first travelled to the beautiful mountain kingdom of Lesotho when I was 19. This stunning country is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery on earth, but it is also home to some of the world's most vulnerable young people.
On that first visit, and many others over the last 13 years, I have met countless young people who know little of what it means to be a child. It is all too common for a 12 year old boy or girl to be forced out to work so they can provide for their brothers and sisters, having lost one or both parents to AIDS.
When my friend Prince Seeiso and I founded Sentebale, we saw early on that children living with HIV grapple with several medical, emotional and social challenges all at once. We knew 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.
I have spent the last few days visiting our new Momahato Childrens’ Centre near Maseru. Our team there create a safe and open environment where young people are encouraged to share their experiences of living with HIV, often for the first time, with their peers.
Over the last decade working in Lesotho, I’ve seen first hand the amazing progress that has been made in treating the physical and mental effects of HIV. These advances in halting transmission, expanding access to treatment, and improving provision of testing are the successes of many of the people and organisations gathered here at this conference.
At the time of the first International AIDS conference, HIV was a death sentence. Treatment was not widely available in the developed world, let alone in poorer regions. Stigma kept HIV positive people from talking openly about their condition and kept vulnerable people from having the courage to step into a clinic and ask for a test.
But thanks to the work of leaders in the fight against HIV - people like Nelson Mandela, Sir Elton John, the brave activists of TAG and ACT UP, people like Dr Peter Piot, and like my mother, Princess Diana - we have made huge progress.
When my mother held the hand of a man dying of AIDS in an East London hospital, no one would have imagined that just over a quarter of a century later treatment would exist that could see HIV-positive people live full, healthy, loving lives.
But we now face a new risk - the risk of complacency.
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.
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 - 1.1m people died of AIDS and 2.1m were infected last year alone. HIV remains the number one cause of death amongst adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. In my own country, infection rates are still rising amongst important groups despite the availability of instant testing and universal access to treatment.
So 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.
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.
What I have seen in the last few days in Lesotho gives me huge confidence that we will rise to this challenge. Seeing young people who have so little, yet who work so hard to support their friends and educate their families about HIV, continues to inspire all of us at Sentebale. They are why I care so much about this fight.
I hope that their stories of courage, and not just the huge problems they face, can inspire all of you as well.
What I believe is that we cannot beat HIV without giving young people in every country the voice they deserve. Without education and without empowerment, HIV will win.
But just imagine what would happen if in places like Lesotho and throughout Africa, children were given the tools to protect their health, to speak out against stigma and discrimination, and to support their friends and family. In helping young people to fight HIV we would not just be ending this epidemic, we would change the direction of history for an entire generation.
A speech by The Duke of Sussex at the visit to The Princess Diana Orthopaedic Centre, Huambo, Angola
I am humbled and honoured that my mother’s work and commitment to demining continues to inspire and that her legacy is being recognised and celebrated today with the naming of...
A speech delivered by The Duke of Sussex at the opening game of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019
Cities across England and Wales will come alive over the next six weeks as World Cup fever sweeps the nation once more
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex launch Shout
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge & The Duke and Duchess of Sussex message countries affected by Cyclone Idai
A speech by The Duke of Sussex at The Endeavour Fund Awards
You do not have to be defined by your injury or disability. It does not have to hold you back.
A speech by The Duke of Sussex at a the Commonwealth Youth Roundtable
This year, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, and with the theme: ‘A Connected Commonwealth', there is a great opportunity to harness the talent...
A speech by The Duke of Sussex at Circus Zambia, The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust Event, Lusaka
We established The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust to be your platform. The place where your voices can be heard, where your work is seen and taken seriously.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's visit to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand
The Duke of Sussex to attend International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam
A speech by The Duke of Sussex at a reception to mark the Commonwealth Youth Challenge
We can’t wait to see you in action in your home countries and learn about what you’re doing to better the Commonwealth, and the world, in 2040 and beyond.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018
A speech by Prince Harry at The Royal Foundation Forum
So far today you’ve heard William explain The Royal Foundation model of working together. And Catherine has shared with you, our belief in the value of focusing on the long...
Prince Harry gives a speech at the WellChild Awards
This is my tenth year as WellChild's patron and of course I'm honoured to be here at another awards ceremony celebrating the powerful work of this organisation.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry celebrate World Mental Health Day09 October 2017
Prince Harry gives a speech at The Queen's Young Leaders Awards
We are here today to recognise our Queen's Young Leaders for 2017. The Queen's Young Leaders Programme was launched in 2014 in honour of Her Majesty The Queen's 60 years of...
A speech by Prince Harry at the Heads Together training day in Newcastle
If we are all willing to have these conversations, we will end the stigma around mental health once and for all
A speech by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at the Heads Together event, London 2017
It is no exaggeration to say that conversations – simple conversations – can be life-changing: in a workplace, in your kitchen at home, with a friend, family member or...
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry attend charity Christmas party19 December 2016
Prince Harry visits MapAction volunteers in Norway
A message from Her Majesty The Queen to the people of Barbados on the 50th Anniversary of Independence
Since you became an independent country in 1966, you have continued to flourish and grow into a strong and confident nation.
A speech by Prince Harry on the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy dedication in St Lucia
On behalf of my grandmother, The Queen, I am grateful to the Government and the people of St. Lucia for this most generous contribution.