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Harry has HIV test in campaign to raise awareness

Prince Harry has led by example and been tested for HIV as he continued his campaign to raise awareness about tackling the virus.

He confessed he was "nervous" before the simple finger-prick procedure at a London sexual health clinic.

After a few moments the result came back negative, and a relieved Harry stuck out his tongue.

It was the first time a member of the royal family had been publicly tested for HIV and was akin to the efforts of his late mother Diana, Princess of Wales, to break down the stigma surrounding the disease.

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.

Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, praised the prince for his "genuine and personal commitment to tackling HIV" and called it a "groundbreaking moment in the fight against HIV" which would help normalise testing and inspire a new generation to take control of their sexual health.

The test was performed by Robert Palmer, a lead health adviser and psychosexual counsellor, in a small cubicle at the Burrell Street centre near the Tate Modern museum.

It covers the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark which have some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections - including HIV - in England, according to Public Health England.

Harry said before the procedure started: "Even though I'm not from this part of London, being the person that I am and the people that I end up being around - I'm still nervous, which is really interesting."

Mr Palmer replied: "It's not surprising because you're going to be doing a test and you're going to find out something about yourself, by having the test done."

Harry has recently made highlighting the issue of HIV/Aids a major element of his public work and had to wait a few moments while the sample was mixed with chemicals and poured into a test tray where a developing solution was added.

The negative result was indicated by a blue spot seen in the tray - if two spots had appeared he would have needed further tests to confirm if he was HIV positive.

The latest data from Public Health England show in 2014 there were an estimated 103,700 people living with the disease in the UK, with 17% of these not aware of their infection.

In 2014 almost 85,500 people were accessing HIV treatment and care, more than double the number (41,157) in 2004, and a 5% increase on 2013.

Asked about the significance of a member of the royal family being tested for HIV, Mr Palmer said: ''It means this is a test for everybody - it doesn't matter who you are, it's a good idea to have an HIV test.''

Next week Harry will give a speech at an international Aids conference in South Africa and share the stage with Sir Elton John, a leading Aids campaigner.

Earlier, during a discussion with senior HIV and sexual health staff from Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust, which runs the clinic, Harry highlighted what he saw as the general view about HIV testing.

He said: "The thinking seems to be 'why do I need to get tested, as far as I'm concerned I'm not one of those groups of people'."

Harry went on speak about the negative views surrounding HIV, associated with the virus since the 1980s, which still prevail.

"I can understand the fear, I cannot get my head around the stigma part, 20 years ago I could understand it, but now?" said the prince.

During the visit to the centre Harry had a private meeting with HIV patients and toured the lab where tests for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases were analysed and looked down a microscope at a positive result for gonorrhoea.


From Belfast Telegraph