Moment Princess Diana Made History With AIDS Patient Goes Viral on TikTok

A video showing Princess Diana's historic act of shaking hands with an HIV/AIDS patient while the stigma surrounding the virus was high in the 1980s has gone viral on TikTok.

The video, which has gained over 450,000 views on the social media platform, shows an example of Diana's legacy being exposed to and engaged with by younger generations who were born after the princess' death in 1997.

Diana is popular among young people with representations of the princess in popular culture, such as with Netflix's The Crown and the 2021 movie Spencer, introducing her and the legacy she has left to younger demographics.

Princess Diana HIV/AIDS Visit Viral Video
A viral video showing Princess Diana's 1987 visit to an HIV/AIDS hospital unit has gone viral on TikTok. Diana photographed June 17, 1997. And (inset) shaking hands with a patient, April 9, 1987. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images/Anwar Hussein/WireImage

In a May 2022 survey conducted by YouGov, Diana was revealed to be the most favorably viewed royal by Americans, with 66 percent saying they had a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" opinion of her. This outranked even Queen Elizabeth II who received a 63 percent response in the same categories.

September 2021 data published by Statista shows that 25 percent of TikTok users in the U.S. are aged between 10 and 19, while 49 percent of users are under the age of 30.

The video, uploaded to the platform by user @1ladyydianawales, shows the princess on her historic visit to the Middlesex Hospital in London on April 9, 1987 where she officially opened the first dedicated medical ward for the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients in the U.K.

"Di's Hand of Hope"

The first confirmed case of HIV/AIDS in the U.K. was diagnosed in 1981 and carried the same stigma it had in the U.S., with many patients being ostracized contributing to the moral panic and fear associated with the virus.

A misguided belief that the virus could be spread through touch also developed, though this was proved to be unfounded by medical professionals.

Since marrying into the royal family in 1981, Diana had identified areas of charity work which had not previously been the focus of previous princesses such as those associated with homelessness and addiction.

Princess Diana Middlesex Hospital Staff
Princess Diana met with members of the medical staff treating HIV/AIDS patients, April 9, 1987. John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images

The visit to the Middlesex Hospital was an important milestone for Diana as it represented an early example of her use of the notoriety associated with her royal title to promote internationally a cause she was passionate about.

A report published by the Daily Mirror the day after the princess' visit to the hospital, titled "Di's Hand of Hope," revealed that she had personally requested a photograph be taken showing her shaking a patient's hand without wearing gloves to show people that it was safe to do so.

Many of those being treated for HIV/AIDS related illnesses on the ward refused to be photographed because owing to the damaging stigma, they feared they would be identified.

On the day of the visit one man agreed to take part in the photo opportunity on the condition that his face be hidden. A spokesperson for the hospital at the time told the Daily Mirror: "The other patients were adamant they did not want to be photographed, but this man agreed that it might do some good.

"The picture was taken in a side room with just one photographer, so there was no chance of him being recognized by anyone."

Princess Diana Handshake Image That Tackled Stigma
Princess Diana's being photographed shaking the hand of an AIDS patient without wearing gloves has been credited with helping to tackle the stigma associated with the illness at the time. April 9, 1987. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images/

Princess Diana's AIDS Legacy

Diana was credited with working to end the stigma associated with HIV/AIDs in both adults and children, continuing to make public and private visits to patients around the world.

In 1991 she delivered a famous speech in which she said: "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.

"We all need to be alert to the special needs of those for whom AIDS is the last straw in already heavy burden of discrimination and misfortune."

Commenters on the viral TikTok video have praised the princess for her compassion with HIV/AIDS patients as well as using her platform to help end the stigma of the virus.

"This was major show of support and shocked many. She was such a good soul," said one user.

"She took her power and wielded it with a simple handshake to shatter barriers, just look at the shock from even the nurse in the background," posted another.

2022 marks the 35th anniversary of Diana's opening of the Middlesex Hospital HIV/AIDS ward and also falls on another poignant anniversary, that of the 25th year since the princess' untimely death at the age of 36 in a 1997 Paris car crash.

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