Elton John and Prince Harry launch bid to ‘smash’ AIDS stigma

Elton John and Prince Harry launch bid to ‘smash’ AIDS stigma

The duke has in recent years followed in the footsteps of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales - a pioneer in the fight against Aids - by raising awareness about HIV/Aids and encouraging people to get tested and know their HIV status.

President of AIDS 2018, Linda-Gail Bekker, says, "Enough of women and girls not having access to basic services because of shame or taboo or lack of access to education or because men make the rules".

Some 15,000 delegates - researchers, campaigners, activists and people living with the HIV virus which causes AIDS - were gathered in the Dutch capital for the five-day conference amid warnings the AIDS epidemic could yet spiral out of control.

Experts lamented that the successful rollout of life-saving, virus-suppressing drugs may have diverted necessary attention, and cash, away from the need to curb new HIV infections.

Introducing Elton, Harry praised the rocker-turned-philanthropist and stated that he had worked "tirelessly" over the years to help fund research into and treatment for HIV and AIDS.

Nelson Mandela's grandson, Ndaba Mandela, was also part of the launch and told delegates that the MenStar Coalition would allow men to "finally fully participate in creating an HIV-free generation of the future".

"Most scientists believed its protective effect was too short-lived to be leveraged as any kind of protective shield against an invading pathogen like HIV-1." said lead author Ruth Ruprecht from Texas Biomedical Research Institute in the US.

A renewed focus on preventing infection, with rates surging in some regions - particularly eastern Europe and central Asia, is critical as the scientific quest for a vaccine and cure continues.

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Despite more people than ever before having access to antiretroviral treatment, the new report emphasized that governments must take urgent action to ensure rights-based responses to HIV and its co-infections (tuberculosis and viral hepatitis).

"To be an LGBT person in Russian Federation is very hard", he added.

The duke joined a session at the conference where youth delegates from countries including India, Zimbabwe and the United States spoke about how Aids has affected their lives.

Harry told the discussion group that the young had the power to solve issues quicker and they should not just be a couple of people "on the side of a platform".

South African actress Charlize Theron agreed as she addressed the day's opening plenary session entitled, "Breaking the barriers of inequity".

Mr Mandeep Dhaliwal, the Director of Health and HIV at UNDP said "Progress on tackling the AIDS epidemic shows that when we work together we can save lives and empower those at risk".

UNAIDS estimates the global fight is short some $7 billion (six billion euros) per year.

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