Continuing their mother's legacy, Prince William and Prince Harry have pledged their allegiance to the HIV charity she ardently supported. In a letter to the Terrence Higgins Trust, which helps UK sufferers of the disease, the Princes said it was now down to their generation to "pick up the sword and continue the fight".
In their letter of support William and Harry noted how their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales "believed passionately" in the trust’s work. Now the brothers aim to help continue her efforts to reduce the stigma that surrounds the illness, writing "we know that HIV can be treated and the lives of sufferers extended by many years. However there is still a stigma which still blights the disease, even today."
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Genevieve Edwards, director of communications for the Trust commented that: "Diana was instrumental in those early days in challenging people’s fears about HIV." Adding that the Princess also did a lot of work out of the public eye. Genevieve said: "she did a lot privately, regularly visiting the Lighthouse hospice in Kensington, completely unannounced and without an entourage, just to talk to staff and volunteers."
In 1987 Diana became the first member of the royal family to have contact with AIDS victims. She famously sat and shook hands with an HIV sufferer upon opening a new AIDS ward at Middlesex Hospital. Prince Charles also offered his help to the cause, publicly donating blood at a time when there were fears that people had stopped donating.
The Terrence Higgins Trust was founded in 1982 by friends of Terrence Higgins who, at the age of 37, was one of the first people in the UK to die of AIDS. The Trust is now in its 30th year, the same age as the Duke of Cambridge, and relies on continual donations to fund its work. Genevieve believes the royals' support will raise the charity's profile, saying they were "thrilled" to hear Diana's sons were keen to help.
The Princes, who regularly visited shelters and clinics for AIDS victims with their mother in the Nineties, said: "Our generation has never known a world without HIV. We have grown up knowing the devastating impact this virus has on lives, on families, on communities." They added that: "There is still no cure of vaccine. However we know it is possible to prevent HIV from spreading further in the future. Terrence Higgins Trust will be to the fore in this, and for that reason, and because our mother believed so passionately in the work of the trust, we wholeheartedly congratulate you on 30 years of selfless service to others."
In March the charity will hold its 30th anniversary auction, which is set to include a photograph of the princes with their mother. Money raised at the event will help the Trust's plans to promote a simple £10 test that can be used to detect the disease as early as possible. As around a quarter of HIV sufferers are unaware they have the disease the test's help for an early diagnosis could add up to 40 years to a patient’s life expectancy.
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