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Harry and Rihanna get tested for HIV in Barbados

Published 01/12/2016

Prince Harry, Rihanna and prime minister Freundel Stuart at the concert in Bridgetown
Prince Harry, Rihanna and prime minister Freundel Stuart at the concert in Bridgetown

Prince Harry and superstar Rihanna have taken HIV tests together in Barbados to raise awareness about the illness on World Aids Day.

The pair, who appeared on stage together on Wednesday night at Barbados' 50th anniversary of independence celebrations, had the finger print procedure during a visit to a HIV drop-in centre targeting Bajan men in the capital Bridgetown.

Harry had a public HIV test during the summer in London and admitted to being nervous before the result came back negative.

The prince has been campaigning for a number of months to encourage more people to come forward and be tested for the illness, which can now be managed with drugs.

During a visit to a Barbados hospital on Wednesday, Harry, who is touring the Caribbean, met paediatric consultant and HIV expert Dr Amok Kumar, and told him: "I want to say to everyone who hadn't been tested - get tested, regardless of who you are, your background, culture or religion."

Referring to the success of anti-retroviral medicine in helping patients, he said: "Because of the success of these drugs, which is great, we are now suffering from complacency and risk going back 10 or 20 years."

The Barbados National HIV/Aids programme has highlighted men as being at significantly high risk - they are more likely to be diagnosed late with HIV compared to women and are also more likely to die from Aids-related illnesses.

To raise awareness, the National HIV/Aids Commission in Barbados is trying to remove the stigma associated with the illness and encourage men to get tested and talk more openly about the disease.

Over the last four years, a successful drop-in market-stall event has been run on World Aids Day, ultimately encouraging men to stop and have a relaxed conversation about any issues.

Before the prince and the pop star took their HIV tests - which both came back negative - Harry teased the singer, saying the process was painful.

"Do you know what you're doing?" he had asked the counsellor who performed the test when she was giving him counselling before the procedure.

He then winced as she stuck the pin into his finger.

When Rihanna had the same thing done seconds later, she laughed and said: "You made it seem like it hurts," adding: "It's not as painful as you said this morning."

Harry, 32, persuaded the 28-year-old Bajan superstar to take the test in public with him today when the pair chatted backstage for 15 minutes last night, after the prince delivered a speech at the celebration over the 50th anniversary of Barbados' independence at the Kensington Oval cricket ground in Bridgetown.

Harry and the singer urged Rihanna's manager Jay Brown to join them but in vain.

"You're laughing now," Rihanna said. "Come and sit here."

Harry joined in. "There's a spare seat. Anyone else want to come and join us?" he asked, looking around the assembled journalists.

Harry had his left thumb pricked by Susette Neblett-Straughn, a counsellor at the Ministry of Health HIV/STI programme who has conducted thousands of HIV tests over the past 12 years.

Rihanna's tests was done by HIV counsellor Felicia Innis.

While they waited for their results, the pair spent the next 20 minutes touring stalls set up in the centre of the capital Bridgetown to promote the Man Aware campaign, urging men in Barbados to get tested.

Aids workers worry that many Caribbean men are unaware that they are carrying the HIV virus and risk infecting others and becoming seriously ill because they refuse to get tested early due to the stigma surrounding the illness.

Harry and Rihanna stopped at a makeshift barber shop set up in a small marquee, where one man was having a shave.

Fabian Sargeant, another HIV counsellor and social worker, explained that a barber shop was a perfect place to raise awareness of the need for HIV testing because it was where people discussed sex, friendship, and what was going on in their lives.

"I need to go to a barber shop!" Rihanna said to laughter.

"Not for sex!" she added quickly, wagging her finger and laughing.

Harry interjected: "Everybody tells their hairdresser everything."

Mr Sargeant explained that there were so many myths surrounding sex in Caribbean culture.

"One of the myths is that royalty don't have sex," he said amid laughter.

"And that royalty has blue blood?" Harry asked, perhaps hoping to change the subject.

"Another myth is that royalty does not engage in oral sex," Mr Sargeant said.

"I'm not sitting in that chair," Harry said, gesturing towards the barber, as those around him laughed.

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