Duke of Sussex says 'corporate greed and political failures' have prolonged Covid and HIV crises

·4-min read
The Duke of Sussex said: 'We are experiencing a spectacular failure when it comes to global vaccine equity' - AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah
The Duke of Sussex said: 'We are experiencing a spectacular failure when it comes to global vaccine equity' - AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah

The Duke of Sussex has claimed "corporate greed and political failures" have prolonged the HIV and Covid crises.

The Prince marked World Aids Day by warning that not learning from mistakes made with the AIDS epidemic would be a "betrayal of the next generation".

He said vaccinating the world is a "test of our moral character" and that there has been a "spectacular failure" over global access to Covid vaccines.

In a letter read out on the Duke's behalf at a World Health Organization and UNAIDS event, said his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales - known for breaking the stigma around AIDS and HIV - would be "deeply grateful" to the scientific community for its tireless work.

But the Prince stressed: "It's time to draw from the lessons we learned throughout HIV/AIDS, where millions died unnecessarily due to deep inequities in access to treatment.

"Are we really comfortable repeating the failures of the past? Everything I've learnt, from the youth of Sentebale, tells me not.

"They see how repeating these mistakes is destructive and self-defeating, it is a betrayal of the next generation."

'Striking parallel' between Covid and HIV

The Duke of Sussex also narrated a video for The People's Vaccine, voicing his concerns as part of the World Health Organization and UNAIDS event.

It featured clips of Diana meeting AIDS patients, as well as the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex during the Global Citizen Live event in September ,which called for leaders to adopt a vaccine equity policy.

The Duke said in the footage - co-narrated with Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS executive director - that corporate greed and political failure have prolonged both Covid-19 and AIDS.

"There are striking parallels between Covid-19 and another deadly pandemic. One that emerged 40 years ago - HIV," he said.

"This is a story about how corporate greed and political failure have prolonged both pandemics and what we can do to stop it."

"By ending vaccine monopolies and sharing technology, companies in the developing world can start producing Covid vaccines too."

'Vaccinating the world is a test of our moral character'

His letter to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, and Ms Byanyima said: "We honour those whose lives have been cut short and reaffirm our commitment to a scientific community that has worked tirelessly against this disease.

"My mother would be deeply grateful for everything you stand for and have accomplished. We all share that gratitude, so thank you."

He said there has been a "spectacular failure" over coronavirus vaccine equity.

"Vaccinating the world is a test of our moral character and we are experiencing a spectacular failure when it comes to global vaccine equity," he said.

"Similar to the AIDS crisis, we've yet again revealed over the past year that the value of life depends on whether you were born and/or live in a rich nation, or a developing country."

The Prince described the emergence of the new omicron variant of Covid-19 as of "deep concern".

"Now, more than ever, the voiceless majority of the world needs to be heard and the onus is on our leaders to end this pandemic," he wrote.

Christine Stegling, executive director at charity Frontline Aids, said a "people's vaccine" was urgently needed and would "benefit everyone, everywhere".

Ms Stegling said: "This is not the first time the governments of rich countries have moved on from a problem as soon as it appears to be in someone else's back yard.

"We saw it with AIDS, where the transformative impact of HIV treatments in rich countries has seen urgency, focus and funding for the global response fall sharply, and we are starting to see the same thing with Covid-19.

"We cannot allow history to repeat itself."

She said the Covid-19 pandemic was far from over, but high-income, high-vaccination countries were already starting to talk about future pandemics - while "turning a blind eye" to those that continue to impact poorer regions.

"This will only prolong the pain of existing pandemics, placing millions of lives at risk," she said.

"We urgently need a people's vaccine to benefit everyone, everywhere."

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