ritain’s Prince Harry has urged his countrymen to “go and get a test’’ for HIV as he told former rugby star, Gareth Thomas, how he felt a responsibility to carry on his mother’s “unfinished’’ work.
Harry and ex-Wales captain Thomas, who were friends, chatted in-depth on a 30-minute video call to mark National HIV Testing Week.
The duke described himself as a typical guy, who just wanted to fix things and said he felt an obligation to try to continue Diana, Princess of Wales’s bid to remove the stigma surrounding the illness.
They discussed how normalising HIV testing could help achieve the goal of ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030.
The duke, speaking from California, said: “Every single one of us has a duty, or at least an opportunity, to get tested ourselves or to make it easier for everybody else to get tested.
And then it just became a regular thing like anything else.
“This testing week, especially in the UK, or wherever you are in the world, go and get a test. Let people know that you know your status, the prince asserted. “Do it’’
As part of National HIV Testing Week, which began on Feb. 7, free HIV home test kits can be ordered in the UK at www.startswithme.org.uk or tests can be carried out at local sexual health or community clinics.
Asked what made him so passionate about advocating for HIV, Harry said.
“Once you get to meet people and you see the suffering around the world, I certainly can’t turn my back on that.’’
He continued: “Then add in the fact that my mum’s work was unfinished, I feel obligated to try and continue that as much as possible.’’
“I can never fill her shoes, especially in this particular space, but because of what she did and what she stood for and how vocal she was about this issue, it’s a converging of all these different pieces.’’
“There’s a way out of it, and if there’s a way out of it and we know there’s a solution, I’m like a typical guy. I just want to help fix things.’’
The late princess, who died in a car crash in 1997, changed the global perception of HIV and Aids, raising awareness of the condition and supporting hospices.
In the late 1980s, when many still believed the disease could be contracted through casual contact, she sat by the sickbed of a man with Aids and held his hand.
Harry described how the virus used to be a death sentence, but was now a “manageable disease.’’
He praised his mother’s empathy and curiosity and said:
“What my mum did and so many other people did at that time was to smash that wall down, kick the door open and say, ‘No, when people are suffering, then we need to learn more.
“I’ve seen a huge change. People are able and happy to talk about HIV so much more openly, but the stigma still exists and therefore the testing is still a problem.’’
When the prince publicly took a HIV test alongside the singer Rihanna in 2016, the broadcast contributed to a 500 per cent increase in the number of people requesting a test on the Terrence Higgins Trust website.
He spoke of how HIV testing had dropped 30 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former Wales full-back Thomas, who revealed he was HIV positive in 2019, said 2Ist wouldn’t be scary if you understood what living with HIV is in 2022.
Sharing his daily medical routine with Harry, he said “At 6a.m, every single day, my alarm goes off.
“I take my HIV medication which is one tablet, and I feel that my day then begins,’’ he added.
Thomas, who came out as the first openly gay rugby union player in 2009, said it was a daunting experience to walk into a sexual health clinic.
But he said it was so much easier to test now, in the privacy of your own home, or at drop-in clinics where there are people to talk to.