“When my mother held the hand of a man dying of AIDS, no one imagined a quarter century later, HIV positive people would live full healthy loving lives," Harry, 31, told the audience.
“At the time of the first International AIDS conference, HIV was a death sentence. Treatment was not widely available in the developed world, let alone in poorer regions. 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," Harry said. "Thanks to the work of leaders in the fight against HIV -- people like Nelson Mandela, Sir Elton John, the brave activists of TAG and ACT UP, people like Dr. Peter Piot, and like my mother, Princess Diana -- we have made huge progress.”
Harry also called for a "new generation of leaders" to take up the cause, saying it is "time for us to step and acknowledge that stigma and discrimination still act as the greatest barrier to us defeating the disease one and for all.”
Before arriving at the conference, Harry spent several days visiting his charity in Lesotho. He saw numerous children who years ago would have been facing a death sentence but, due to his charity’s work, now have a place to go for both medical attention and emotional and psychological support.
Harry shared some of his personal photos from that journey during his speech today.
“It is all too common for a 12-year-old boy or girl to be forced out to work so they can provide for their brothers and sisters, having lost one or both parents to AIDS," he said. "I have spent the last few days visiting our new Momahato Children's Center near Maseru. Our team there created a safe and open environment where young people are encouraged to share their experiences of living with HIV, often for the first time, with their peers."
Harry and Sir Elton John set aside time while in Durban to answer children's questions about the AIDS epidemic and what they are doing to highlight the work that still needs to be done.
"Just imagine what would happen if, in places like Lesotho and throughout Africa, children were given the tools to protect their health, to speak out against stigma and discrimination, and to support their friends and family," Harry said. "In helping young people to fight HIV, we would not just be ending this epidemic, we would change the direction of history for an entire generation."