Prince Harry marked World AIDS Day by honoring the lives of those lost to the pandemic, a health crisis that was important to his late mom, Princess Diana.
He also applauded the work of doctors and scientists in the fight against HIV and brought attention to the similarities between that and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On this World AIDS Day we recognize the 40 years that have shaped life for many,” the Duke of Sussex wrote in an open letter addressed to World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS.
“We honor those whose lives have been cut short and reaffirm our commitment to a scientific community that has worked tirelessly against this disease. My mother would be deeply grateful for everything you stand for and have accomplished. We all share that gratitude, so thank you,” he added.
Harry is also one of the narrators of a video that was played at the beginning of the UNAIDS conference Wednesday, in which he talks about the “striking parallels between COVID-19 and another deadly pandemic. One that emerged 40 years ago — HIV.”
The 37-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth II urged world leaders to unite and make sure that science for both pandemics also reach underdeveloped nations.
The short video features scenes of his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales — a powerful early voice in AIDS/HIV activism who used her platform as one of the world’s most famous faces to fight against stigma and prejudice.
Byanima, who co-narrates the video, noted that while both pandemics have caused millions of deaths, “scientific breakthroughs have meant that for many life could begin again.”
“But not for all,” Harry added. “This is a story about how corporate greed and political failure have prolonged both pandemics and what we can do to stop it,” he said referring to inequities surrounding vaccines and treatment for both diseases around the world.
“By ending vaccine monopolies and sharing technology, companies in the developing world can start producing COVID vaccines too,” he said, urging world leaders to ”break the monopolies” and “deliver a People’s Vaccine.”
“We’ve known for some time (thanks to medical experts) that if we are unable to meet agreed targets to vaccinate 40% of every country’s population by the end of the year, and 70% by next September, potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variants are likely to arise. Yet, here we are,” he wrote in the letter, published online Wednesday.
Even though we still don’t know much about the risk of the omicron variant, “there is no doubt that its emergence is of deep concern. Now more than ever, the voiceless majority of the world needs to be heard, and the onus is on our leaders to end this pandemic. Anything less is self-defeating,” he added.
“It’s time to draw from the lessons we learned throughout the HIV/AIDS pandemic, where millions died unnecessarily due to deep inequities in access to treatment,” he continued, adding that today should be a day for both celebration and recommitment.
“Let’s spend today celebrating and building on the work of champions who turned what was once a death sentence into a manageable condition. Let’s spend tomorrow continuing our efforts to save lives and make a difference,” he concluded.
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