Diana statue to be unveiled; princess embraced AIDS patients when told not to

Wed. June 30, 2021 11:00 AM by Gerald Farinas

diana's funeral cortege

photo credit // paddy briggs

William and Harry to be at unveiling

The Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex will be in London together on July 1 to honor their mother, Princess Diana, on the occasion of what would have been her 60th birthday. William and Harry commissioned a statue sculpted by Ian Rank-Broadley in a garden designed by Pip Morrison.

The Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, and the Queen will be absent from the largely private ceremony. Charles is expected to be in Scotland during the event. 

Diana was killed at the age of 36 in a Paris automobile accident on September 6, 1997. She was famously felled as her Mercedes-Benz W140 was chased by paparazzi. French authorities later concluded that driver Henri Paul was under the influence of alcohol and prescription medication and therefore was ultimately responsible for the death.

There was a massive outpouring of grief when Diana died, especially beneficiaries of her public work. Among those grieving were large swathes of LGBTQ Britons and persons with HIV/AIDS.

Diana was famously photographed embracing, holding hands with AIDS patients at British and American medical facilities. This was a time when a largely uneducated public were afraid of being infected through touch.

Biographers claim she was counseled against doing so out of fear. She educated herself and insisted on using her celebrity to squash stigma.

Diana explained, "HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it. What's more, you can share their homes, their workplaces, and their playgrounds and toys."

The late princess claimed that the Queen was not supportive of her work with HIV/AIDS.

Despite that, she raised millions in dollars from the U.S. and Commonwealth countries for AIDS research and to provide care and comfort. She was most famously patron of the National AIDS Trust and an HIV/AIDS organization called Turning Point.

Her efforts led to her opening sites like the Landmark AIDS Centre in London and Grandma's House in Washington, D.C. 

As more was learned about HIV/AIDS and number of infections rising in Africa, she was instrumental in getting the attention of Nelson Mandela to mobolize against the epidemic.

Nelson Mandela said of Diana, "When she stroked the limbs of someone with leprosy or sat on the bed of a man with HIV/AIDS and held his hand, she transformed public attitudes and improved the life chances of such people."

Queer idol Elton John sang at Diana's funeral service. Proceeds from the sales of Candle in the Wind, rewritten by John and Bernie Taupin for the funeral, amounted to almost $52.5 million for Diana's charities.

Actor Sir Ian McKellan and author Alan Hollonghurst featured Diana in a 2009 Gay Icons exhibit at London's National Portrait Gallery.

Her sons, the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex have taken up HIV/AIDS issues as part of their own work.