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Prince Harry Invokes Princess Diana's Memory in Powerful Speech: 'My Mother Held the Hand of a Man Dying of AIDS'

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AP

One week after the groundbreaking moment Prince Harry took an HIV test live on Facebook, the royal is once again bringing attention to the important issue.

Harry traveled to Durban, South Africa, to speak at the International AIDS Conference on Thursday, and he invoked the powerful efforts of his late mother Princess Diana in a moving speech.

Thanks to activists and leaders “like my mother, Princess Diana” great progress has been made, he told the crowd.

“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,” he continued.

“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.

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“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 neighbors. 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.”

Elton John and Prince Harry
EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND

Harry was also joined by AIDS activist Elton John to address the delegates. The duo hosted a session focused on how the disease affects young people.

Last week, the singer took to Instagram to praise Harry for taking an HIV test live on video,

“Prince Harry gave that stigma a knock on the head by showing the world how easy and simple it is to take an HIV test,” he wrote. “Bravo Prince Harry! Your mother would be so proud of you.”

In 1991, Princess Diana moved a mountain by addressing the stigma surrounding people living with HIV/AIDS. She showed the world we could safely wrap our arms around AIDS patients, by shaking hands with a patient without gloves. We've made huge strides since then in the treatment of the disease. People now live long, happy lives with HIV, when the virus is effectively managed with anti-retrovirals. Despite this amazing progress, most people today are still frightened and stigmatised at the notion of taking an HIV test. Today in London, Prince Harry gave that stigma a knock on the head by showing the world how easy and simple it is to take an HIV test. Bravo Prince Harry! Your mother would be so proud of you. @ejaf #LoveBravery

A post shared by Elton John (@eltonjohn) on

Harry’s work countering HIV and AIDS is a major part of his public work. At the conference, he also shared the stage with his good friend Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, with whom he set up the kids’ charity Sentebale to help those orphaned by AIDS in the mountainous kingdom.

What’s Next for Prince Harry?

“At the time of the first International AIDS conference, HIV was a death sentence,” Harry told the delegates. “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.”

Earlier in the day, Harry and Elton John added their names to a wall of signatures, run by the UNAIDS group called the #ProTESTHIV wall. Signing in red ink, Harry wrote in block letters, “GET TESTED! WHY WOULDN’T YOU?”