Prince Harry

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Prince Harry is forging ahead in the fight against AIDS—a battle his late mother Princess Diana worked as a public figure to combat over 20 years ago. 

The 31-year-old younger son of the former princess of Whales has launched a public campaign dedicated to HIV and AIDS prevention and erasing the stigma surrounding the syndrome. Most recently, he spoke at the 2016 International AIDS Conference on Thursday in Durban, South Africa—a country where HIV and AIDS are still vastly prominent. Before speaking out against "complacency," Harry harkened back to his mother, who was a famously avid supporter of patients fighting the illness despite premature public fears. Most memorably, she hugged and held hands with patients without gloves although, at the time, it was unknown if HIV and AIDS could spread through simple physical contact. 

"When my mother held the hand of a man dying of AIDS in an east London hospital, no one would have imagined that, just over a quarter of a century later, treatment would exist that could see HIV-positive people live full, healthy, loving lives," he said. "But we now face a new risk—the risk of complacency."

Princess Diana, Casey House, AIDS victim

Tim Graham/Getty Images

Though advancements in treatment cannot be denied, Harry noted the drive for publicity and funding is not as fierce as it once was years ago. "We cannot lose a sense of urgency, because, despite all the progress we have made, HIV remains among the most pressing and urgent of global challenges—1.1 million people died of AIDS and 2.1 million were infected last year alone," he noted.

If his remarks were not enough of a tribute to his mother's charitable memory, Harry was also joined onstage by Diana's beloved friend and a staunch advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Sir Elton John.

"Young people are being left out and left behind in the AIDS response and it needs to stop," the musician declared. "It needs to stop here and now."

Prince Harry, Elton John

AP Photo

Among those infected today are natives of Harry's very own country. "In my own country, infection rates are still rising amongst important groups despite the availability of instant testing and universal access to treatment, so it is time for a new generation of leaders to step forward."

Harry has undeniably been one of those modern leaders to join the global fight. In 2006, he established Sentebale, a charity organization aimed at helping children—many infected with HIV and AIDS—in Lesotho, South Africa. At the end of June, he organized a charity concert headlined by Coldplay to raise money for the foundation. He subsequently live-streamed himself getting tested for HIV in an effort to de-stigmatize the process. "It is amazing how quick it is," he pointed out on camera after it was over. "So whether you're a man, woman, gay, straight, black or white—even ginger—why wouldn't you come an have a test?"

"It is time for us to step up to make sure no young person feels any shame in asking for an HIV test," he told the crowd in South Africa Thursday. "It is time for us to step up to make sure that girls and boys with HIV aren't kept from playing with their friends, classmates, and neighbors.It is time for us to step up and acknowledge that stigma and discrimination still act as the greatest barrier to us defeating this disease once and for all."

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