Today (1 December), Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are attending their first official public engagement at an event in Nottingham hosted by HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust. Last month, 23-year-old Andrew Bates spoke to the Prince about his story and the stigma that still surrounds HIV.
I was given the chance to meet with HRH Prince Harry at the opening of the Terrence Higgins Trust’s pop-up shop in Hackney, London. The pop-up shop was created for National HIV Testing Week as a space for people to receive free at-home tests, as well as a offering a safe place for people to receive support and advice on HIV. I was given the opportunity to speak with the Prince as an advocate, to speak about my personal experience with HIV and how life does not end at a positive diagnosis.
Despite our conversation being closely filmed, recorded and intently listened to, the discussion that I had with Prince Harry was genuine. I had prepared multiple points that I thought would be interesting to talk to Prince Harry about – about how I was diagnosed and the importance of an early diagnosis – however the topic quickly strayed into much more personal areas, which despite being barely prepared for, I was absolutely honoured to talk about. It felt extremely easy to open up about the areas of my life that I rarely talk about with close friends or family due to the Prince being such an engaging individual.
He seems to genuinely care about the work that he does and the people that he speaks to, so it was my pleasure to open up about areas such as coming out as gay, the struggle of coming to terms with having HIV and the idea of living the rest of your life with a chronic illness. Not only was this conversation therapeutic for myself, but being able to discuss such matters with an individual in such high places was exactly what I aimed to achieve, and more, when I spoke out about my HIV diagnosis and decided to campaign for the Terrence Higgins Trust.
By utilising this opportunity as a platform to speak about such matters, I hope to support other individuals who are going through similar situations and may feel like they are struggling. I hope to reassure these individuals that they are not alone and that together we will dispel the stigmas and stereotypes that still surround HIV.
When I received my HIV diagnosis, I was struck by initial feelings of shock and worry over what would happen next. Due to lacking the knowledge of HIV, I was unaware of the treatment that was available and how effective this could be in intercepting the virus from developing further. One thing that I was certainly unaware of was that in just two years time I would be using my diagnosis as a way of speaking out about HIV, to become an advocate for HIV positive people and to combat the spread of the infection.