Royals Prince Harry Speaks Out About Carrying on Mom Princess Diana's 'Powerful' Legacy of HIV Advocacy "What my mom started all those years ago was creating empathy and understanding," Prince Harry said in a chat with rugby player and HIV advocate Gareth Thomas for the U.K.'s National HIV Testing Week By Stephanie Petit Stephanie Petit Stephanie Petit is a Royals Editor, Writer and Reporter at PEOPLE. People Editorial Guidelines Published on February 10, 2022 12:00 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Prince Harry. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Global Citizen VAX LIVE Prince Harry joined forces with rugby player Gareth Thomas, who revealed in 2019 that he is HIV positive, in support of National HIV Testing Week 2022 in the U.K. Speaking with Thomas, who created the Tackle HIV campaign, over video chat from the California home he shares with wife Meghan Markle and their two children, the Duke of Sussex opened up about continuing to advocate for HIV awareness — 35 years after his mother Princess Diana opened the U.K.'s first HIV/AIDS unit at London's Middlesex Hospital, a space that would exclusively care for patients with the virus. Prince Harry, 37, noted that at the height of the AIDS epidemic, commercials and advertisements sought to "polarize" those who had HIV or even spoke about it. Prince Harry Writes Personal Letter on Behalf of His Mother Princess Diana on World AIDS Day "What my mom did, and what so many other people did at that time, was to smash that wall down. To kick the door open and say, 'No. When people are suffering, then we need to learn more, and if there's a stigma that's playing such a large part of it, then what we really need to do is talk about it more,' " Harry said. "That kind of made people feel a little bit uncomfortable to start with. But stigma thrives on silence. We know that." He added, "What my mom started all those years ago was creating empathy and understanding...but also curiosity, which I think was really powerful." Princess Diana. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images Prince Harry said most people had a "blissful ignorance" towards the illness because they don't believe they are at risk for contracting it. He went on to say that although he knew he wasn't in a risk group, he hoped getting tested would help others feel more comfortable in finding out their own status. "Every single one of us has a duty, or at least an opportunity, to get tested ourselves to make it easier for everybody else to get tested," he said. "It will undoubtedly save a life or, at the very least, encourage someone who is living in fear to come forward and get to know their own status, which in turn will save a life." Gareth Thomas and Prince Harry. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Thomas has made it his mission to educate people about HIV and correct the myths that exist around it to break the stigma that surrounds the virus. "We need to eradicate the stigma and the misunderstanding around it," Thomas said. "It wouldn't be scary if you understood what living with HIV in 2022 is." He also thanked Prince Harry for his longstanding advocacy: "Having advocates, having allies, when this can be such an isolating, lonely virus to live with, is sometimes enough. It's sometimes the difference between getting tested and not getting tested. It's sometimes, sadly, the difference between life and death. So, I as somebody who lives with HIV has the ability to have the platform to say thank you for everything you've done." As part of his advocacy work, Harry underwent HIV tests alongside singer Rihanna during a 2016 visit to her native Barbados. "I was so excited to find out that it was so easy, and the results come back that quickly —you can find out literally on the spot, your status, and it's very discreet," Rihanna said at the time. Rihanna and Prince Harry. Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images After his outing with Rihanna, Harry said, "The younger generation coming through want to talk about it, but there's still that stigma. If us getting testing normalizes it and makes a difference, even a small difference, then job well done." Prince Harry previously helped highlight the need for more understanding about HIV with Thomas in 2019. Thomas told PEOPLE at the time: "[Harry] knows the stigma that's out there, he knows the fear of people not wanting to be tested because they're so afraid of what they don't know, and he understands the lack of education out there. So to stand up and actually take a test himself is a real sign of bravery, and a real sign of somebody who doesn't want to just communicate to certain people, he wants to communicate to everybody." Thomas launched Tackle HIV alongside ViiV Healthcare in 2020 to educate people about HIV and correct the myths that exist around it to break the stigma that surrounds the virus. "We need to eradicate the stigma and the misunderstanding around it," he said. "It wouldn't be scary if you understood what living with HIV in 2022 is."