Prince Harry visited the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine yesterday where he participated in a roundtable discussion between young people from Lesotho and Botswana and influential world experts on HIV and AIDS.
Speaking at the opening of the session, Prince Harry said: “Whether it’s in the education system here in the UK, whether it’s across Africa or across the world, HIV needs to be treated exactly the same as any other disease.
“Between us we can hopefully eradicate the stigma and give these young people the opportunity to stand and say ‘I’ve lived it, I’ve breathed it and you know what? I’m going to make a difference because I don’t want anybody else my age to go through exactly what I went through’.”
Prince Harry’s Sentebale charity runs clinics in both Lesotho and Botswana and he took notes and listened intently throughout the session as he heard that young people in the two countries are reluctant to attend the small number of available clinics because they would face treatment in the same room as adults. Publicly sharing an HIV positive status is difficult given the stigma surrounding the condition.
Prince Harry spoke about the fact that crucial information on the disease often comes way too late, saying: “To me, it is totally absurd in today’s world that for young people the first time they hear anything about HIV and AIDS, it’s probably by the time it’s too late.”
Ts’epang Maboee, from Lesotho, tested positive for HIV at the age of fourteen after losing both her parents by the time she was ten. Tlotlo Moilwa was also orphaned by the disease when it claimed both her parents when she was only four years old. Kananelo Khalia, also from Lesotho, said he has suffered “stigma and hostility” since testing positive for HIV in 2007 but he said it’s important to let others know “there is still life after being tested positive”.