Britain's Prince Harry says lack of education on HIV is "absurd"

LONDON - Britain's Prince Harry has criticized the "absurd" lack education for young people on HIV, saying youngsters often don't know about the virus until it is too late.

Harry, 32, who has become a prominent HIV and AIDS campaigner through his charity Sentebale set up in 2006 to help children in Africa, said HIV needed to be treated like any other disease and without stigma.

AIDS is the second most common cause of death among adolescents globally and the leading cause of death among adolescents aged 10 to 19 in Africa, according to the United Nations' program UNAIDS.

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"To me it is totally absurd that in today's society that young people, the first time they know or the first time they hear about HIV and AIDS, is probably by the time it is too late," said Harry during a visit to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine this week.

Figures show about 36.7 million people worldwide have HIV, which is spread through blood, semen and breast milk. Only around half have access to treatment, and many do not know they have the virus.

Harry's campaigning to combat AIDS follows the work of his late mother Princess Diana who opened Britain's first HIV/AIDS unit in London in 1987 and famously shook hands with and kissed an AIDS patient during a hospital visit.

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Harry, who is fifth in line to the throne, set up Sentebale after visiting the Southern African nation of Lesotho in 2004 and seeing for himself the children impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic which led him to filming a documentary there in 2005.

The prince has also been a key participant in World Aids Day, launching the #FeelNoShame campaign in 2014 with singers Nicole Scherzinger and Paloma Faith and filmed with Barbadian pop star Rihanna being tested for AIDS in 2016.

He said through education he hopes to improve awareness about the disease with a global target to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

"HIV needs to be treated exactly the same as any other disease, and between us hopefully we can eradicate the stigma and give these young people and opportunity to stand up," Harry said.