20 years after her death: How Princess Diana transformed global attitudes to HIV AIDS

20 years ago Princess Diana was killed.

That car crash in Paris would become one of the biggest news stories of all time, to the extent that, even 20 years on, it dominates headlines across the world.

The news on that fateful night rolled through the early hours of the morning until, at 4:41AM, the BBC announced her death.

As Maxine Mawhinney, who was anchoring BBC News that night, explains in the Independent, she had been told of the death while live on air, via an ear piece, and had to keep it secret from the world for more than an hour.

Her sudden death left millions, of not billions of people reeling.

It also, critically, saw the loss of one one of the greatest advocates for de-stigmatising HIV AIDS positivity the world has known.

In the 1980s, fear around HIV and AIDS was at its peak – labelled the “gay plague” by the tabloid press.

It was commonly believed that HIV could be passed on simply by touching a person infected with the virus, leaving HIV-positive people shunned.

In April 1987, Princess Diana opened the UK’s first purpose built HIV/AIDS unit, which exclusively cared for patients infected with the virus.

For days before, the visit had been the subject of huge media debate – would she or would she not wear gloves?

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