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Britain's Prince Harry gives an HIV self-test kit to a local resident during his visit to the opening of the Terrence Higgins Trust charity's HIV self-test pop-up shop in Hackney, east London, to launch National HIV Testing Week, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)
Health

Prince Harry, Elton John, and Nelson Mandela’s Grandson Are Fighting HIV Together


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Global progress against HIV/AIDS is slowing down — with new infection rates rising in 50 countries around the world. But right now, fewer than half of men living with HIV are receiving treatment. Without change, the world can’t beat HIV/AIDS. You can join us by taking action here in support of the UN Global Goal for good health and well-being for everyone. 

Prince Harry, Sir Elton John, and Nelson Mandela’s grandson have joined together to launch a campaign to raise awareness among men about HIV. 

The power trio kicked off the billion-dollar global partnership — the MenStar Coalition — this week in Amsterdam, at the 22nd International AIDS Conference. 

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They warned about the “dangerous complacency” that is threatening to slow, or even reverse, the progress that has been made globally against the disease in recent years. 

Take action: Tell World Leaders Health Is a Human Right, Not a Privilege

“The MenStar coalition is bravely tackling the root cause of this problem — the lack of awareness of HIV prevention amongst hard-to-reach young men,” said Harry, at the launch on Tuesday. 

He added that the campaign launch came at “a time when new energetic and innovative solutions are needed more than ever before.”

Ndaba Mandela said: “As an African man who has seen far too many people succumb to this epidemic, including my own parents, this coalition will allow men to finally fully participate in creating an HIV-free generation of the future.” 

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The aim of the campaign is to target men living with, or at risk of, HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and break the cycle of male transmission. 

It wants to encourage more men to get tested and to educate men — particularly between the ages of 24 and 35 — on how to protect themselves from the virus. 

“MenStar” is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as by the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Unitaid, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and Johnson & Johnson, a partner of Global Citizen, among others.

About 37 million people around the world have HIV, according to the United Nations' programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, but fewer than half of men living with HIV receive treatment — compared to 60% of women.

In western and central Africa, for example, only 48% of people living with HIV know their status, according to a report released by UNAIDS this month.

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But a serious obstacle in the efforts against HIV/AIDS is the stigma and discrimination that people living with it face.

According to the UNAIDS report, entitled “Miles to Go,” discriminatory attitudes are still held in almost all areas of society — including health, law enforcement, education, employment, family, religion, and the community. 

That stigma is holding people living with HIV back from seeking diagnosis, treatment, and other reproductive health services. 

The Amsterdam conference has prompted numerous reports and warnings about how progress globally is slowing down — with UNAIDS further warning that new infection rates are rising in about 50 countries.

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And it’s teenage girls that are primarily feeling the impact of the epidemic. About 30 teenagers were infected with HIV every hour in 2017, according to a UNICEF report presented in Amsterdam this week — and 20 of these were girls. 

“In most countries, women and girls lack access to information, to services, or even just the power to say no to unsafe sex,” said UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore, in the report. “HIV thrives among the most vulnerable and marginalised, leaving teenage girls at the centre of the crisis.” 

But while girls and women are most affected, men have to be part of the solution. 

“It is time there was a global coalition to teach men to protect themselves,” said Sir Elton, who was a close friend of Harry’s mother Princess Diana — well known for her work supporting those living with HIV/AIDS and dispelling the stigma around the disease. 

“And in doing so, it will teach them to better protect not only their wives and girlfriends, their sisters and daughters, but also, critically, their brothers and their sons,” he said.

“Young people are the only age group where HIV infections are rising, not falling,” Sir Elton continued. “We have to do much, much more to bring men, especially young men, fully into the fold.”

Harry also joined a discussion at the conference for an advocacy programme Let Youth Lead, run by the HIV/AIDS charity he co-founded with Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso in 2016, Sentebale.

“We have to put the power into the hands of the younger generation because that’s where the solutions are going to come from and that’s where the passion and engagement is coming from as well,” Harry said during the discussion, according to Harper's Bazaar

“The younger generation not only have the solutions,” he continued, “but have the capability to be able to solve these problems in a much shorter period.” 

“MenStar” is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as by the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Unitaid, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and Johnson & Johnson, among others.

Global Citizen has partnered with Johnson & Johnson to help create a world where a healthy mind, body, and environment is within reach for all humanity.