Prince Harry has been hearing from young African people about the stigma of living with HIV.
He told them it was “absurd” that young people in the region do not hear about the disease until it is far too late.
“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,” he said.
Harry had listened intently from young people brought over to London by the charity Sentebale, of which he is patron, in order to address world HIV experts. The charity aims to support the forgotten victims of poverty, and Lesotho and Botswana’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.
He heard from Tlotlo Moilwa, 18, who told how she lost both her parents to HIV when she was just four years old.
Ts’epang Maboee, from Lesotho, lost her father when she was a baby, and then her mother to the same condition when she was ten years old. And then, four years later she was told that she herself had tested positive for the disease.
Ts’epang told Prince Harry how many of those in their early teens have sex with older men in order to get money and later test positive for HIV.
The Prince took notes as he heard how young people are reluctant to attend the few clinics which exist because adults are treated in the same room as teenagers.
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’.”
Kananelo Khalia, also from Lesotho, told the Prince how both his father and younger sister died of HIV. He tested positive himself in 2007.
Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, also famously worked with AIDS charities.