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Get tested, urges Harry, in HIV/Aids awareness drive

Published 07/07/2016

Prince Harry takes part in a round table discussion with HIV doctors at King's College Hospital
Prince Harry takes part in a round table discussion with HIV doctors at King's College Hospital
Prince Harry meets HIV medical specialists at King's College Hospital in south London as part of his desire to learn more and raise public awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS both internationally and in the UK.
Prince Harry takes part in a round table discussion
Prince Harry meets HIV medical specialists at King's College Hospital in south London as part of his desire to learn more and raise public awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS both internationally and in the UK.
Prince Harry takes part in a round table discussion with HIV doctors at King's College Hospital in south London as part of his desire to learn more and raise public awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS both internationally and in the UK.
Prince Harry takes part in a round table discussion with HIV doctors at King's College Hospital in south London as part of his desire to learn more and raise public awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS both internationally and in the UK.
Prince Harry takes part in a round table discussion with HIV doctors at King's College Hospital in south London as part of his desire to learn more and raise public awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS both internationally and in the UK.
Prince Harry meets HIV medical specialists at King's College Hospital in south London as part of his desire to learn more and raise public awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS both internationally and in the UK.
Prince Harry takes part in a round table discussion with HIV doctors at King's College Hospital in south London as part of his desire to learn more and raise public awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS both internationally and in the UK.
Prince Harry meets HIV medical specialists at King's College Hospital in south London as part of his desire to learn more and raise public awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS both internationally and in the UK.

Prince Harry has passionately pleaded for people who may have HIV/Aids to get tested as he continued his bid to reignite awareness of the virus.

He revealed his main aim was to "reduce stigma" as he chatted with research experts and frontline staff at King's College Hospital in south London.

The Prince said: "Something needs to change. Some people need to be reminded that this is very much - especially in London now that the numbers are going up - this is very much an issue that a lot of people look at.

"I'm not trying to scare people but ... they have a responsibility - with a relationship or with people that you love - that actually you owe it to yourself and you owe it to them just to get tested.

"It is such a simple thing to do," he added.

He asked how many people living with HIV/Aids had not told their partner about their diagnosis, to which the hospital staff collectively replied "Loads."

Staff added that there was a very small risk of the virus being passed on once treatment was under way.

Harry also asked what, if he was an "average Joe, member of the public", he should do if he wanted to get tested.

The group told him people should search SH24 - Sexual Health 24 Hours - on Google.

In August the hospital will be rolling out HIV testing to all patients, who will be able to opt out, in an attempt to normalise it.

The Prince was shown a "Keep calm and test for HIV" badge and joked: "There's nothing that 'Keep Calm' doesn't work for", prompting laughter from the room.

Continuing, he said that, in the hierarchy of medical tests, it should be "not at the top, not at the bottom, just in the middle", gesturing with his hands to indicate how the practice could be integrated.

Harry follows in his mother's footsteps by continuing to pledge his time to raise the issue of HIV/ Aids.

Diana, Princess of Wales, was the first member of the Royal Family to have contact with a person suffering from HIV/Aids.

In the late 1980s, when many still believed the disease could be contracted through casual contact, she sat on the sickbed of a man with Aids and held his hand.

Arriving at the hospital on Thursday morning, Harry shook hands with the chief executive of King's College Hospital, Nick Moberly, before sitting down to a round-table discussion about the virus.

He was told there were about 108,000 people living with HIV in the UK, the majority of whom - 81,000 - are receiving care.

Around 24% of the total are undiagnosed, which is the UK's "biggest challenge", the Prince heard.

He was then told that there are around 6,000 diagnoses per year in the UK - with nearly half of those - 2,500 - in London.

Harry also asked the experts for their views on PrEP - a drug available in America which can prevent people at risk from developing the virus.

It is not currently licensed for use in the UK, but where it is used it "significantly reduces the risk of transmission" and is "extremely cost-effective", he was told.

Harry praised the "fantastic" HIV services in the UK, saying people in this country had the "best opportunities".

"All you can do is ask, and if you get pushed back, or whatever it is, then there's nothing more that you can really do," he said to staff as they told him about their plans to get more people tested sooner.

Comparing the situation in the West to Africa, he said: "At least if you can be here you've got these opportunities, and you've got to make the most of them."

The Prince's charity, Sentebale, helps youngsters with HIV/Aids in the impoverished southern African kingdom of Lesotho, which he has visited.

He said: "It's so frustrating one minute ... to be in Lesotho and seeing all those communities and kids really suffering out there, and then ... people from sub-Saharan Africa coming to live in London and you've got this place on their doorstep and it's just like 'Come down, have a test!'"

Over the past six months, Harry has been privately meeting HIV/Aids experts and figures from the charitable sector to further his understanding of the issue.

Later this month, he will travel to Durban in South Africa to speak at the international Aids 2016 conference, which runs from July 18 to 22.

He is also planning a meeting at a south London sexual health clinic next week, Kensington Palace said.

Frank Post, 54, a consultant physician on HIV medicine, said the global rollout of antiretroviral drugs has been "absolutely spectacular", and the progress in the UK showed an "absolute success story".

Mr Post, who has worked in the UK, America and several African countries, said there had been "tremendous progress" worldwide, with the global death rate for HIV/Aids halving in 10 years - from a peak of two million in 2005 to one million in 2015.

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