A speech by The Duke of Sussex at the International AIDS Conference
Good morning everyone.
This conference has a proud history. For more than 30 years it has been a place where science, activism, government, and medicine have come together in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
These communities have come together to rise to the big challenges the fight has required:
- The smashing of the deadly stigma around the virus – and calling out the prejudice that has fuelled it;
- The heart-wrenching work to prioritise treatment and research;
- And the work to make the world’s governments play their full role in tackling the epidemic.
What we have learned, is we succeed when we put people at the heart of our strategies.
When we focus on the reality of the child born with the virus; when we respect the young woman at risk due to the behaviour of her partner;
When we try to understand the perspective of the man who lacks access to information and testing;
When we harness the huge potential of people living with HIV to help guide the delivery of services and the campaign against stigma;
And when we create platforms for young people to shape and direct the services they rely on;
When we do all of these things, we succeed in developing approaches that make a real and lasting difference.
I am honoured to be sharing the stage with someone who has always put people at the centre of his work – Sir Elton John.
For over a quarter century, Elton has worked tirelessly to fund research and services in communities around the world. And today, he has come to Amsterdam to announce his latest endeavour – a billion dollar global partnership to break the cycle of male transmission of HIV, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
We stand here at a moment when the progress we have fought so hard for is at risk from a dangerous complacency. Too many around the world are still ignoring the damaging knock-on effect on education and other community services from not prioritising HIV prevention and treatment.
This is a time when new, energetic and innovative solutions are needed more than ever before – and that is exactly what you are about to see from Elton and the Men Star Coalition partners.
This initiative is focused on the tough but essential work of truly changing mind-sets. Inspired by the growing alarm at the rate of new HIV infections among young women, this campaign is bravely tackling the root cause of this problem — the lack of awareness of HIV prevention amongst hard-to-reach young men. And it will be guided by listening to and respecting the voices of the young men the coalition is trying to reach.
I would like to congratulate the Elton John AIDS Foundation on convening this impressive coalition with major financial backing.
I am a firm believer that we must work together across agencies, charities, and industries to make change at scale.
To formally announce the Men Star Coalition, it is my honour to introduce my friend, Sir Elton John.